Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You Shared, Classroom Listened!

Google has recently made some exciting new updates to Classroom thanks to all of the feedback and suggestions from teachers.  Starting today, Classroom will enable Teaching Teams, Save draft, Autosaved grades, and Better notifications.

Teaching teams: New ways to work together in Classroom

Google built Classroom to help teachers spend less time on paperwork, and more time with their students. Since it launched, Google has also heard from teachers and professors that they’d love to be able to use Classroom to collaborate with other educators.

Teach together: Whether it’s a substitute, a teacher’s aide or a department chair, almost every teacher and professor is supported by other educators. So starting today, you can have multiple teachers in a Classroom class. To try it out, just go to your class’s About page and click “Invite teacher.” Additional teachers can do almost everything the primary teacher can do: they can create assignments or announcements, view and grade student submissions, participate in the comments on the class “stream,” invite students and even get email notifications – everything except delete the class.

Dani Raskin, a special education teacher at Clarkstown High School South in New York, has been helping Google to test out this new feature. “It’s really important for me to be able to work closely with other teachers who also teach my students, but we don’t always have prep time together,” Dani said. “We are now able to split the workload: both of us can provide direct feedback via comments and grading. It really fosters an authentic sense of teamwork and collaboration."

Prep for your classes in advance: Google knows how much planning goes into every class you teach, and now they are making it a little bit easier to do some of that planning in Classroom. You can save announcements and assignments as “drafts” and wait to send them to students until you’re ready. And similar to Gmail, any time you start creating a new announcement or assignment, it’ll be automatically saved as a draft. This works with multiple teachers as well, so all the teachers in a class can collaboratively prep assignments in advance, and even make changes to each other’s posts on the fly.

Google is also making some other updates you’ve told them will make Classroom easier to use:

  • Autosaved grades: If you can’t get all of your assignments graded in one session, but still want to return them to students at the same time, grades will now be auto saved as you enter them. You can choose when to return them to students.
  • Better notifications: Teachers and students will now receive email notifications when a private comment is left on an assignment.

For schools here in North America and in Europe, Google knows you’re working hard as you round the corner into the end of the year. Google, is too, and they will have more Classroom news for you before school’s out for summer.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Google Classroom: New Features and Updates

In every classroom around the world, teachers spend time decorating their rooms by tacking up fun decorations and outstanding student work. Starting today, teachers can bring those same personal touches to Classroom by uploading their own images to use as themes. That’s just one of the little surprises that Google has sprinkled throughout Classroom to brighten your winter (or sweeten your summer, for our Southern Hemisphere friends).

If you have an image you’d like to use as your theme, Classroom will help you crop it to the perfect dimensions, and automatically pick a matching class color. And in case you don’t have a great photo to use, Classroom is adding 18 new images and 30 pattern themes to the gallery, so teachers have lots of options to make their classes look great. If you don’t have time to browse all the themes, Classroom will even try to automatically match a relevant theme to the class title — it works well for common topics, but it might not find a perfect theme for topics like History of the Peloponnesian War or Quantum Computing 401.

Today Google is also making updates to the mobile app for iOS and Android launched a month ago:

  • Students and teachers can now view the About page in the mobile app for quick access to their class materials and resources.
  • On iOS, students can now add images, videos, and any other files to assignments from other apps.
  • Your favorite emoji are now available on the Android app [insert smiley face here.]
  • Google made overall changes that will increase the speed of the app’s performance, so you can get your work done even faster.

Stay Tuned!
You’ll notice a lot of other small updates that Google hopes will bring some delight and productivity to your February classes!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"Hello, Operator! Please help me filter my search"

"Offutt Air Force Base operator" by U.S. Air Force photo - page image.
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Information has never been more ubiquitous than it is today.  Fortunately, we live in a world of open access where performing a simple Google Search can yield the results we are looking for.  But what about those times when it doesn't?

There is actually SO much information online that it can become difficult finding what we are looking for.  The problem isn't that there is TOO much information on the Internet.  It's that we often have difficulty filtering this information.

Not to worry, Google is aware of this problem, and has integrated search operators for people to use when searching the Web.  Search operators are, "words that can be added to searches to help narrow down the results" (Punctuation, symbols, & operators in search).  In other words, search operators help us to filter information on the Internet.

There are several search operators that can be used when performing a Google Search. For example, if you perform a search using the "define:" operator followed by a word, Google will return the definition of that word.  However, it is important to note that when you use search operators, make sure that you don’t have any spaces between your operator and search terms. For example, searching for “site:wikipedia.org” will apply the operator, but “site: wikipedia.org” will not.

Now, you could memorize all of the operators that are currently available to use in your queries.  Or, you could use Google Advanced Search, which already has the operators built into specific search fields.  With Google Advanced Search, you can search using a single operator, or multiple operators at the same time.  The table below helps to identify the search fields in Google Advanced Search and explains how to use each one.

When using these search operators (either in the omnibox or in Google Advanced Search) there are a few search rules to keep in mind.  These rules not only apply when using search operators. They also apply to any Google Search.

  • Every word matters:  Consider only using key terms, and omit unnecessary words. 
  • Order of words matter:  Consider the order in which you use your key terms and words.
  • Symbols matter:  Consider using symbols such as $, #, @, *, -, and + to refine your search.
  • Capitalization does NOT matter:  Disregard using capital letters.  
  • Punctuation does NOT matter:  Disregard using !, ?, ; ., etc.

So, the next time you need to perform a Google Search, consider using search operators and Google Advanced Search to filter out information in order to help you find exactly what you are looking for!


Punctuation, symbols & operators in search
Google Search Modifiers: Cheat Sheet
Google Search Tips: Search Operators
Google Advanced Search
Google Search Education
Google Search Help Center
Inside Search

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Monday, October 27, 2014

3 YouTube Tips for New Users

Have you ever had your students complete a video project but then had difficulty figuring out how to share it?  This is actually a common problem that teachers face all the time.  This blog post will help to identify a workflow to help students save and share their videos using their Google Apps for Education, YouTube account.

Before students can begin uploading their videos to YouTube, they have to activate their YouTube Channel. Often, students who are new users will create a video on their iPad (or other mobile device) and try to upload it to their YouTube account.  However, if they haven't "activated" their YouTube Channel, their videos will not upload successfully.

How to Activate a YouTube Channel

Students will need to first login to YouTube on a computer, and click the "Upload" button.  Then they will be prompted to create an "available" username and select their gender.  When they have successfully finished these steps, they can click the, "OK, I'm ready to upload" button. That's it!  Their YouTube Channel has been activated and they can begin uploading videos from any device.  Here is a video that demonstrates these steps.

Privacy Settings

Now, to take this one step further, I also recommend that students adjust their Privacy settings based on their school's Acceptable Use Policy.  Students and teachers can actually change their default upload setting to either Public, Unlisted, or Private.  By default, videos uploaded to YouTube are set to Public.  But by making a few extra clicks, any user can change their default uploads to either Unlisted or Private.  

To change your Privacy Settings in YouTube, click on your Profile icon in the top, right-hand corner and select the YouTube Settings button (gear icon).  Next, at the bottom left-hand corner, select "View Additional Features".  Then select "Upload Defaults" on the left-hand sidebar.  This is where users can change their default Privacy, Category, and other settings.  Finally, click the save button to update the changes.  Check out the video below for a video demonstration of these steps.

YouTube Safety Mode

YouTube also has a "Safety Mode" feature for students.  To turn ON "Safety Mode", simply scroll down to the bottom of your YouTube account and select the "Safety" button.  This will bring up the option to turn Safety Mode ON or OFF.  By selecting ON, this will also turn on Google SafeSearch as an added bonus. However, it is important to note that when Safety Mode is turned OFF, Google SafeSearch will also be turned off.

So, before you begin to have your students share their next video project, consider having them perform the following steps:

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Improve Your Research with Google Search Tools

Google Search has some really great tools and features to help you when you are performing research. Tools such as Google Image SearchGoogle BooksGoogle Scholar, and Google News can all be used in slightly different ways to help you answer your questions.  This blog post will highlight how to use each of these tools to access primary resources, along with providing some concrete examples and tutorials.

Google Image Search

We all use images for various research projects and assignments.  Google knows this, which is why it has made it easy for users to search for images based on different usage rights.  By selecting Google Image Search, and clicking on the "Search Tools" button, you can filter your image results by usage rights.  I like to search for images that are "Labeled for reuse with modification" to ensure that I don't infringe on anyone's copyrighted works.

Google Books

Have you ever thought about using Google Books for research?  There are actually tons of free ebooks that can be easily accessible for reading, or for research.  Google Books has lots of books that are in the public domain so users can access these books in full text for free.   In order to search for free Google Books, simply type in your research topic and select "Books".   Then, select the "Search Tools" button and change "Any books" to "Free Google ebooks".  Now you can perform your research by skimming and scanning free Google Books.

Google Scholar

If you are interested in searching for more than just books, Google Scholar is a great place to start. With Google Scholar, you can search for citations, books, journal articles, and even case law.  When performing research in Google Scholar, it is often helpful to set a custom date range to help refine your results.  For even more options, select the down arrow at the right and choose "Advanced search" to use additional search fields in your search.

Google News

Did you know that Google has a collection of historical newspapers?  It's called the Google News Newspapers Archive and it dates all the way back to 1970.  There are hundreds of Newspapers that have been scanned and uploaded in the archives to be used for research.  To use the Newspapers Archive, you can either visit the archives directly at http://news.google.com/newspapers, or you can type your query and include the operator: "site: news.google.com/newspapers" in the Google omnibox. This will automatically search your query in the Newspapers Archive.  You could also just browse the newspapers that are available in the archive.  They are listed in alphabetical order.

So, the next time you are conducting research, consider using Google Image SearchGoogle BooksGoogle Scholar, and Google News. They just might be able to help you find what you are looking for!  Check out the video below to watch a screencast demonstration on how to use these Google Search Tools for research.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Digital Citizenship Week: Copyright and Wrong

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by liako:
Happy Digital Citizenship Week!  This year, Digital Citizenship Week is from October 19-25 and it's mission is to recognize and celebrate the safe, appropriate, and responsible use of technology. In lieu of Digital Citizenship Week, I thought I might share some information and resources regarding Copyright Law as it pertains to education. 

As Digital Citizens, we often emphasize the importance of digital safety, security, and appropriate communication, which are all critical elements of digital citizenship.  However, copyright is also a critical element of digital citizenship that often gets overlooked.  Why, you might ask?  Maybe because it's not valued as much as the other components of digital citizenship.  Or, maybe it's because we as educators don't fully understand copyright, or know how to find and use resources responsibly and appropriately.  I'm thinking it's the latter.  So, hopefully this blog post will shed some light into copyright and highlight some resources and tools that are available for educators and students to use for projects and learning assignments. 

So, what is Copyright exactly?  

Copyright is basically an exclusive right that is automatically given to the owner of an original work. To be considered work, it needs to be tangible in some form of text, imagery, visual art, audio, video, or performance.  Believe it or not, but, “Copyright vests automatically as soon as you create an original work that is fixed in a tangible medium.  Consequently, nearly every person in the country today is a copyright owner” (Crews, 2012, pp. 23-24).  For example, if you snap a photo on your smartphone, you automatically have copyright protection on that photo.  So in reality, we are all owners and users of copyrighted material.

What happens if I want to use someone else's work?

Below are some strategies that you can use to avoid copyright infringement (Crews, 2012, p. 139). However, it is always a good idea to include attribution to the author or source when using someone else's work:
  1. No permission is needed if the work is in the public domain
  2. No permission is needed if you use the work within fair use or any other exception
  3. Permission for some works may be available though a collective licensing agency such as Creative Commons
  4. Contact a copyright owner and draft a permission letter 
  5. Create your own original work  

1.  Public Domain: No permission is needed if the work is in the public domain. Works that are found in the public domain are works by owners who "... choose to publish online and to make the content available in full on the Internet, without restriction" (Crews, 2012, p. 37).  Due to recent advances in technology, many people are now choosing to publish their work online for open access. "Open access is a choice made by the copyright owner—not to relinquish rights, but to use the legal rights in order to make the work easily accessible" (Crews, 2012, p. 37). 

2.  Fair Use:  No permission is needed if you use the work within fair use.  Fair use can be defined as, "an exception to the rights of copyright owners, allowing the public to make limited uses of a protected work" (Crews, 2012, p. 53). When determining fair use, there are four factors that need to be considered: purpose, nature, amount, and effect (Crews, 2012, p. 59):
  • Purpose:  A nonprofit educational purpose can support a claim of fair use.  A transformative use can also be highly influential.
  • Nature:  Uses of factual, nonfiction works are more likely to be within fair use, while fair use applies more narrowly to creative works.
  • Amount: the less the amount of work used, the more likely it is fair use. 
  • Effect:  Uses that do not compete with the market for the copyrighted work are more likely fair use. 

3.  Creative Commons:  Permission for some works may be available through a collective licensing agency.  "Authors are now choosing to make many of their works available to the public under a Creative Commons license.  This voluntary system is essentially a grant of permission to the public to use the work for certain purposes. One of the most common options permits any noncommercial uses of the work with attribution to the author or source.  A work marked with that CC license may be used by anyone, for say, nonprofit education, provided the copies include the author’s name or other identification” (Crews, 2012, p. 37).  To find works that have a Creative Commons license, visit search.creativecommons.org.

4.  Reach Out:  Contact a copyright owner and draft a permission letter.  Sometimes it can be advantageous to make a general request to the copyright owner.  When making a request, it is often helpful to explain how you intend to use the work in connection with teaching or learning.  Some details to include in the request are (Crews, 2012):
  • A termination date for the permission
  • A maximum number of students using the work
  • The medium by which you will share the work
  • The specific nature of the use

5.  Create:  Become a copyright owner and create your own original work.   Often, the best solution to avoiding copyright infringement is to simply create your own work. Even though it might take longer, there can be a great sense of pride and accomplishment as a result.  Some ideas might include taking your own photos, drafting your own artwork, and writing down your own thoughts to be used for various projects and assignments.  And if you are interested in adding some extra protection to your work, you can always consider registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office

Why Bother?

After reading this, some of you might be thinking to yourself, "People infringe on copyright almost every single day (with or without even knowing it).  No one ever gets caught and no one ever faces any consequences, so why should we even bother paying attention to the complications of copyright at all?"  While that might appear to be the case, it is important to know that "the owner can seek statutory damages of up to $30,000 per work infringed, in lieu of actual damages or profits. Moreover, the owner may also ask for reimbursement of attorney fees and the costs of litigation" (Crews, 2012, p. 102). Furthermore, "If you have committed a willful infringement, you may also face criminal penalties—including monetary fines and time in the federal prison system. (Crews, 2012, p. 103).

The purpose of sharing this information isn't to scare you, rather, it's to inform you! And in my opinion, the most important reason to care about copyright is simply because it's the right thing to do. Even though the chances of getting caught and facing consequences are slim to none, we should lead by example by showing respect to creators of work, and giving credit where credit is due.  That's what it takes to be a digital citizen.  That's the difference between copyright and wrong! 

So, the next time you find yourself wanting to use someone else's work, follow the five strategies to avoid copyright infringement, and use these resources below to help you find and cite your work.

Photos For Class
CraftyRights (Chrome extension)
Google Advanced Search: Usage Rights
Flickr Creative Commons
Every Stock Photo
Free Digital Photos

YouTube Audio Library
Royalty Free Music
National Jukebox LOC.gov

YouTube → Search Filter → Creative Commons
Vimeo → Search Filter → Creative Commons
Moving Image Archive

Purdue: OWL Research and Citation
Flickr CC Attribution Helper

Educational Resources on Copyright

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Crews, K. D. (2012). Copyright law for librarians and educators: Creative strategies and practical solutions. Chicago: American Library Association.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Did You Know? Google Sites No Longer Redirects to Other Websites ... Or Does it?

File:Mandatory road sign no right turn.svg
Image is cc licensed for reuse on wikimedia commons.

Did you know that Google recently stopped enabling Sites to redirect or forward to other sites (such as a domain that you might have purchased)?  I just noticed this today when I tried visiting my website when I wasn't logged into my account and I discovered a blank, white page. Apparently, others have been running into this same issue.  I think it might have something to do with a potential security issue.

How does it work?

After doing some research, I was able to find a workaround for this.  If you still want your Google Site to redirect (or forward) to your own domain, or to another site, all you have to do is check the box in your settings that will "allow embedding of your sites in other sites".

To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Login to your Google Site
  2. Select the "Open More Actions Menu" (gear icon)
  3. Select "Manage Site"
  4. Select the "General" tab
  5. Scroll down to "Security"
  6. Check the box that says "allow embedding of your sites in other sites"

I got this information from the following Google Product Forum:


Here's an example

If you visit my professional webpage: www.bradleylands.com you will see that the site is up and running.  It was created with Google Sites and you can confirm this by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.  If you had visited my website anytime during the last three weeks, you would have seen a white, blank page.

Now that you know
  1. If you happen to have a Google Site that redirects to a different website or domain, consider using this quick workaround to display your domain on your Google Site.
  2. If you ever create a Google Site in the future, keep this trick in mind if you decide to forward your site to a different website or domain.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hello, Earth - Let's Go Explore!

Image is CC licensed for reuse.
In lieu of Earth Day today, I thought I would share a collection of Google Earth and Google Maps resources and webtools. Google Earth is actually one of my favorite learning tools due to its versatility.  It allows for investigation, exploration, creation, and collaboration in multiple subject areas, and it even allows its users to take virtual field trips to places they have never been before.

While there are several Google Earth Tutorials that can get you started, I am going to highlight a few tutorials, websites, and features that use Google Earth as a learning tool for different content, as well as a presentation tool for creating projects. Finally, I am also going to share some webtools that integrate Google Earth and/or Google Maps into its functionality.

"Google's geo products give you and your students easy access to the world's visual information. Once, maps were available only to royalty but now, you can explore Earth, Moon, Mars, and even dive into the depths of the oceans. The possibilities of using Google Maps, Earth and Street View are as endless as your imagination. We encourage you to explore, create, and collaborate." - Google Maps Education

Ideas for using Google Earth to learn content in different subjects

Geography: Investigate and explore any place on Earth. [1]
  • Overlay topographic maps on to Google Earth to compare and contrast different types of geographic representations [1]
  • Challenge students to make their own real-world decisions using Juicy Geography lessons for Google Earth [1]
  • Practice differentiating between physical and cultural landscape features of the world's largest cities [1]

Math: Learn geometry and measurement. [1]
  • Utilize Real World Math and the variety of lesson plans that utilize Google Earth to teach a wide range of math concepts [1]
  • Use the Ruler tool to calculate distances in various units of measurements [1]
  • Find the angle of elevation for hiking trails or ski runs using trigonometric functions [1]

Language Arts: As a place to make connections to pieces of Literature (visit: Google Lit Trips) [1]

Science: As a science tool:  Google World Wonders

  • "From the archaeological areas of Pompeii to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Google’s World Wonders Project aims to bring to life the wonders of the modern and ancient world."
  • "By using our Street View technology, Google has a unique opportunity to make world heritage sites available to users across the globe."

"Sunlight" tool, "Google Sky" tool, "Mars" tool and "Moon" tool) [1]
  • Explore the Earth's many biomes and habitats on all of the continents [1]
  • Explore the under water terrain, visit sea vents, and learn about the health of the ocean [1]
  • Using Mars in Google Earth, view images downloaded by NASA just hours ago, in the Live from Mars layer. [1]
  • Take tours of the landing sites on the Moon, narrated by Apollo astronauts [1]

History: As a history tool:  Google Historic Moments

  • "Explore online exhibitions detailing the stories behind significant moments in human history."
  • "Each exhibition tells a story using documents, photos, videos and in some cases personal accounts of events."

Historical Imagery tool [1]
  • Use Historical Imagery to travel back in time and view your neighborhood, home town, and other familiar places to see how they have changed [1]
  • Learn more about the US Presidents, their birthplaces, and the progression of states that voted during elections [1]
  • View the many historical maps from the David Rumsey Map collection, like the Lewis and Clark trail map from 1814 [1]

Art: As an art tool or resource: Google Art Project

  • Explore, compare, and contrast works of art, artists and museums. 
  • Get closer to these works more than humanly possible and take Google Street View tours of famous museums around the world. 

  NASA Earth As Art

Other creative uses
  • As a presentation tool (use the "Record a Tour" feature).
  • As a vacation planner (use the "Placemark" feature to bookmark all of your desired destinations)
  • As a virtual field trip (use the Google "Street View" tool get a 360 view of any location) Try visiting Instant Street View for a quick way to virtually explore somewhere.

Webtools that integrate Google Earth and/or Google Maps

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Did You Know? Google Account Chooser

Did you know that you can choose to add or remove accounts to your primary Google account? Most people know how to ADD accounts, but some aren't sure how to REMOVE accounts after they have been added.  This happened to one of my teachers today, so I thought I would share this solution for others.

What happened was, a student's Google account was accidentally ADDED to a teacher's Google account. This probably happened because the student logged into her Google account on the teacher's computer for some reason or another.  Therefore, every time the teacher went to login to her Google Account, her student's account was also an option.  The teacher wanted the student's account REMOVED from her Google account, but she wasn't sure how to do this.  

How it works

When a user logs into his or her Google Account, the user has the option to "Add account" or to "Sign out" of his or her current account.  All you have to do is click on your Profile Icon at the top right corner of your Google Account to access your Google Account Chooser.

Here's an example

Let's say that I wanted to REMOVE a Google account that is already associated with my primary Google Account.  The first thing that I would do is click on my Profile Icon and select "Sign Out". 

Then, after I had successfully logged out of my primary account, I would click on the "Sign In" button at the top right.  This would allow me to "Choose an account" that is associated with my primary account.  If I wanted to REMOVE an account from my primary account, I would simply click the "Remove" button, which will allow me to remove any or all of my accounts. 

Now, let's say that I want to REMOVE my school account.  All I would have to do is click on the "X" icon to remove it from my account.  And then select "Done".  I would repeat this process for every account that I want to remove.  

Now that you know
  1. The next time you see an account that is accidentally added to your primary account, you know how to remove it.
  2. You can help other students and teachers who might have encountered this same problem. 
  3. You can actively choose to add or remove accounts from your primary account to make accessing your accounts more efficient. 

For more information and support on Google Account Chooser, visit: support.google.com/accounts

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Did You Know? ClassDojo Messaging

Did you know that a new feature within ClassDojo’s existing platform launches today, enabling teachers and parents to easily and meaningfully communicate about student progress?  It's called ClassDojo Messaging and it has the potential to be a very effective communication feature of this powerful learning tool.

I was actually contacted by Manoj Lamba from ClassDojo to help promote this great new feature. After witnessing first-hand how powerful this learning tool can be for students and teachers, I was privileged and honored to help spread the word!

How it works
  • Teachers will be able to send parents private, “Direct Messages” to update them about their child’s progress as well as “Broadcast” message an entire group of parents with ease about class events.


  • ClassDojo believes that this new feature is a major step forward for teachers, many of whom currently converse with parents using non-­ideal tools such as formal emails, impersonal text messages, or handwritten notes ­ all of which require more effort, are overwhelming, do not engage parents in a meaningful conversation, and ultimately result in less real communication about students and their progress.

  • The feature launches initially on iOS and Android devices, and has been tested by scores of teachers over the past month with overwhelmingly positive reactions! Teachers appreciate the thoughtfully­-designed, teacher­-focused features, such as the privacy of not sharing personal contact details, the two types of messaging (Broadcast and Direct Messages), and also “read receipts” showing acknowledgements when parents have seen messages. Most importantly, teachers are now finding it easier to engage in higher quality conversations with parents about students’ progress and development.

Now that you know

  1. Consider signing up for a free ClassDojo account to help with student learning and behavior management.
  2. If you already have a ClassDojo account, consider checking out the new Messaging feature of ClassDojo to increase communication with parents.
For more information about this new feature, visit classdojo.com/messaging

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