Friday, 28 February 2014

Learning to Collaborate with GAFE (Google Apps for Education) for Elementary Students

Welcome to Collaborating with GAFE (Google Apps for Education)! Today we are learning how to work on something collaboratively with a partner. Have fun!

A couple of tips to get you started...
When you open a new document, always name it, that way it is easier to share, and both you and your partner will know what it is.

When you are ready to share, click on the share button.

Then select “Anyone with the link”.

Select “Can edit”.

In the Invitation box, start to type your partner’s email address. Usually it will pop up under your typing.


DRAWING: Ceate a Drawing page and share it with your partner through email. Take turns typing clues while the other person tries to draw what you're thinking of on the screen. After the person drawing it has guessed what you were describing, then you switch and you type clues to your partner while they draw what you're describing.

DOCUMENT: Create a Document page, and then start writing a story. After the first sentence of your story, email an invite to your partner so that they can continue your story and take turns writing a sentence at a time. Each sentence must have either an adjective, or an adverb in it.

Create a presentation, then click on "Insert". Choose "Picture", then choose "Search".
Upload a picture for your partner to describe with a caption. Email an invitation to your partner. They will create a slide with a picture for you to write about as well. Each picture must have a caption (a sentence describing what is happening in the picture).

SPREADSHEET: Open a spreadsheet page, and make a series of questions on a topic of your choosing.

Make sure the first box is empty (blue arrow). The data should be collected in the top row horizontally, and the first row vertically (green arrows).

Once you have collected your data, highlight the boxes with information for your graph.

Click the graph icon to create a graph.

See how many of the settings you can edit once you have created your graph.

Don't forget to name your graph!

Video Walkthrough on How to create a graph:

Great work! Happy collaborating!

Introduction for Primary Students to Google Apps for Education

Start at your school board's 
sign on portal:

Once you log in... you will see this page. Click on the "Create" button to begin:

Tech Tip: *Everything is called "Untitled" when you open it. Make sure you click "untitled" and name your page.*

Start with Drawing. See if you can draw a picture of your home with you beside it.

Great Job!

Now open a Document. Give it a title. Click on "Insert" to add an image:

Choose "Search" and you will be able to search right in your Document. Once you have a picture, write a sentence under your picture.

Fantastic work!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Chromebook Apps and Extensions for Elementary Teachers

Using a Chromebook can be a bit challenging at first as an elementary teacher. We have our chosen apps and programs that we use on different platforms that work well, and some are not available in the Chrome Web Store. The good news is that there are many apps and extensions that work in a similar fashion, and the best part is that they're usually free! 
Most websites you would access on a computer are available on a Chromebook as well. These are some specific apps and extensions that help me on the Chromebook with my workflow, and sharing information with students.
The first two apps are very useful when sharing information with a Chromebook hooked up to a projector. If you're showing an article, or a video you might not want all the extra information and flash advertisements that appear on the page, these are very distracting for students.

When I'm sharing an article, I like to use an app called Clearly that was developed by Evernote. It removes all the extra and non-essential information from the page, leaving just a clean view of the article itself with images.

Here is a before shot.

Here is a look after Clearly has been applied to the webpage.

You can also highlight on screen and save it to your Evernote account.

Techsmith Snagit allows you to capture screenshots, and then annotate them with arrows, shapes and text. It is similar to Skitch, which I use on an iPad/Android tablet.

If you've been looking for an app like ShowMe, Educreations, or Explain Everything, then Pixiclip is the best option right now on a chromebook. It doesn't have an app or extension on the chrome store yet, but it is a website that you can visit and it works great on a Chromebook. If you sign up for free account then you can save your videos and embed them or share them through social media options.

Here are a couple of helpful extensions 
that really help with workflow.

SendtoGdrive is an extension that automatically saves an article, or webpage to your Google Drive account as a PDF file.

Evernote clipper is also very useful for taking an article, or a full webpage, or PDF and saving it directly to your Evernote account. is great if you want to instantly get a shortened URL, or a QR code that students can immediately scan right off the screen onto their own device and get the website loaded instantly without having to type the URL.

Screencastify is a Screencasting app, it allows you to record what you're doing on a tab, or your whole screen and share it with others. On the Samsung I found the tab option worked best as it was less processor intensive.

TLDR (too long didn't read) is an excellent way to instantly summarize an article. It offers different options, there's a short medium and long version of the summary. Great way to share bigger articles with an elementary class. is an option if you would like to flip your classroom. It allows you to record your voice alongside a slideshow so you can share information and do it with a recording almost as though you were sharing it live.

If you're looking for an app to record audio and be able to then play with it and edit it, then Twistedwave is a good option.

Once you get all these extensions and apps up and running, you might want to have a quicker way to access the extensions. If so then you should enable keyboard shortcuts in the extensions menu.

If you click on the three bars on the far right of the omni box, you will find settings. Click settings, then click extensions. If you scroll down to the bottom of all your extensions you'll see "Keyboard Shortcuts". Click on that. Here you can customize your own keyboard shortcut keys that you would like to use for any of the extensions above.

Hopefully some of these will be useful for you, I found them very useful this year as we're starting to use Chromebooks more. There's a ton more than I haven't mentioned here that are easy to find on the Chrome Web Store. Happy searching!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Apps for Elementary Students Using Chromebooks

My class has a Chromebook which we have been using for many tasks. Students have worked on slideshows, websites, blog posts, and for researching topics of interest. The reading levels of the students in my Grade 3/4 class vary greatly. To support all students in my class with reading/understanding what they find on the internet, I have found these apps and extensions to be very useful. The best part is that they are all free!

Announcify extension: 
Reads web pages outloud and highlights the paragraph being read. This is a fantastic app that really helps younger children access information on the chromebook.

Dictanote app: 
This app is similar to Dragon Dictate on an iPad. It does speech to text, spoken words into a text document that can be copied and pasted into an email, or saved in Word/Pages ect. 

Image Dictionary extension: This is an extension that works off off the right click menu. Highlight a word, and right click it and it will bring up a picture from Wikipedia of that word. Helps with comprehension. 

Another tip with Wikipedia, that works on any device, or web browser is to simply choose "Simple English" from the list of available languages. This makes the articles significantly easier to read.

Chrome Speak app: 
This is effective when the student is reading most of the web page, but some words are difficult. Highlight and right click the word, and it will be read to them.

If you have a student with dyslexia, you might have success with:
OpenDyslexic app 
This changes all web pages to the OpenDyslexic font which is easier to read. It works on most web pages, but not all. Once added, it is always on. 

We have been successfully reading, researching and learning with these apps and extensions. I am sure there are many more available on the Chrome Store. If you have a great app or extension your class has been using, please share it in the comments below. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Awesome Ideas: #Project-Based Learning by Kids, for Kids

I participated in a Twitter chat last night on #edtechchat that was very interesting. There were a lot of excellent ideas, about Project-Based learning, and Technology. People had a lot of excellent advice to share, but many had questions about where people got their PBL ideas. What I was having trouble with, was the very idea that one needs #PBL resources. There is no shortage of great ideas in a class full of curious children. In my classroom, most of the ideas, most of the resources, and most of the best thoughts have come from the children themselves. We call them Awesome Ideas, and there is never any shortage. This is a video tour of a group's tour of the Titanic model they built in Minecraft:

Titanic from Scott McKenzie on Vimeo.

Another group took us on a tour of their Titanic project in Minecraft during their presentation. They had inforgraphics embedded throughout the tour.

To get ready for the challenges involved with Project-Based Learning, we spent time looking at famous inventors, and how they failed many times before they were successful. Failure leads to success. This student designed a garden in Minecraft, in the village outside his Medieval castle. The first castle wasn’t successful, and wasn’t growing produce.

He watched a video clip on how to create a successful garden, and rebuilt the garden which is now very productive!

Some of the ideas we've done together, when the whole class was interested in a topic. Some ideas we have done as individuals, or small groups depending on who is interested in those ideas. The best part of it all is, in spite of the fact that there is so much variety and so many things going on at once; in the midst of all this chaos, there is a hum of engagement. There are whole crews of students working away at a vast variety of different things all at the same time. Sometimes I feel a little left out. I'm walking around and everyone is completely engaged in what they're doing. It's actually hard to say who has learned more this year, them or myself.

This is not to say I haven't nudged students in one direction or another with a carefully worded question. When I wanted my class to try coding this year, I did mention to someone "Wouldn't it be cool if we could make our own character do something on the computer. Later on in the year we all tried the Hour of Code. There have been many times where I have said, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." I have chosen my moments carefully, and held back more often than not. Students generally take to the suggestions. The trickiest part is knowing when to step in with a suggestion, or an idea. Watching them fail at a task, my first instinct is to tell them what they are doing wrong, but I hold back and just ask "What went wrong? How are you going to use that to improve your design?"

We do have curriculum to cover, and Social Studies and Science. I find it difficult to constrain everyone when we’re doing these topics. My model this year has become an introduction of the general topic with lots of different possible areas that could be interesting to students. Then I let students brainstorm together and come up with ideas that they'd be interested in learning and sharing about. These ideas often change, and are modified as the students go down their individual path, but they eventually come up with a grand idea. Here is a plasticine model of an ear that some girls designed and built. 

This was during our light and sound unit. Other students used iMovie to create videos that explain different experiments. Many of those videos started with “Bill Nye the Science Guy” style beginnings that were very amusing and obviously came from the video clips we watched. It was these comedic parts, these little inserts the students put in, that made the presentations very interesting. Normally when we do presentations, half of the students are disengaged, or outright not paying attention to the presentation at all. As the students have had more control over what they’re designing and creating, and because everything is so different, they’ve paid close attention to all of the presentations.

I'm not sure if this is PBL learning, or if it's a hybrid PBL learning style, but it's working for us and it's what we're using. The best part of every day is the genuine excitement both for the students and myself, because we're always asking...