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

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

TEDEd Project: A Lesson Worth Sharing

After creating my own TEDEd project with my students, I thought that this might be a lesson worth sharing!

In the Fall of 2013, I teamed up with a teacher in my school to create a TEDTalks Project for our students. Since the project was such a huge success, I decided to create a similar project with a different teacher.  This project was our TEDEd Project where students would create video animations to explain their lessons, just like the real TEDEd videos.

For this project, students have the autonomy to choose a lesson that they find meaningful and valuable to share with the world.  Lessons can range from science experiments, to challenging questions, to personal experiences.  The only thing that matters is that the lessons must be important to the students.

If you've watched enough TEDTalks, or TEDEd videos, you probably know that most of the presentations are about the presenter's experience.  The presenter usually has some experience or idea that is worth spreading, or has created something that is worth sharing.  Therefore, I chose to create an example TEDEd Project for my students about a personal lesson that I thought was worth sharing.

I used PowToon to create this animation, but there are lots of different technology tools that can be used to create animations for this TEDEd Project.  Some of these tools include:

After working on this project, I was also able to develop an effective workflow for students to use when creating their own TEDEd projects.  The goal is for students to create an animated video that is no longer than 5 minutes.  This is a sample workflow process that I used with my students:

  1. Choose a meaningful lesson
  2. Create an outline
  3. Write a script
  4. Create a storyboard   
  5. Create the animation
  6. Record a VoiceOver of the script
  7. Adjust the animation to match the VoiceOver
  8. Publish and share the project

The great thing about this project is that students get to practice so many different workplace readiness skills. They get to practice skills such as creativity, design, digital literacy, persuasive writing, public speaking, and project management.  In addition, students also get a chance to "teach" their lesson, which will help to reinforce the knowledge that they have learned about their particular topic.

My lesson worth sharing is this: "Don't let a test score define you!" Everyone is smart in their own way. And everyone can improve their abilities in life with practice, education, hard work and a "growth mindset".

So, I encourage you to take a creative risk and try this project with your students. Who knows ... your students just might have a lesson worth sharing!

For more information on TEDEd, visit

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Monday, March 24, 2014

5 Easy Steps to Remove Accounts from the Google Drive App

Ever since the new update came out on iPad for the Google Drive App, it has been difficult for students and teachers to figure out how to effectively logout of the Google Drive App.  This has particularly become an issue for schools who currently are not operating on a 1:1 Program.  Since students in these schools must consistently share devices such as laptops and iPads, they need to frequently sign in and sign out of their accounts, every time they use a device.

In order to overcome this problem, I have created a couple of resources to help support students and teachers when trying to logout of the Google Drive App on iPad.  Below is a Google Slideshow of screenshots to demonstrate the steps that are needed to successfully logout or "Remove" accounts from the Google Drive App.

In addition, I have also created a short video tutorial to serve as a screencast demonstration on how to successfully remove student accounts from the Google Drive App on iPad.

Note:  This process is only needed on iPads that are operating on the latest version of Google Drive.  If the Google Drive icon has a "white" background, then it should be the latest version.  If the Google Drive icon has a "black" background, then these directions probably do not apply to you yet. 

In order to update to the latest version of the Google Drive app, visit the App Store on your iPad. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Did You Know? Set YouTube Defaults for Future Uploads

Did you know that you can set defaults for future uploads in YouTube? This can help to ensure that you have your preferred settings for Privacy, Categories, Comments and more for each upload.

How it works

There are actually two ways to adjust your default settings in YouTube.  The first way is to sign into your YouTube account and you should see a blue banner across the top of your page that displays the message, "Did you know you can set defaults for future uploads?".  If you see this banner, simply click on the button at the right that reads, "Configure defaults" (see image below). You can also change your privacy settings for each individual upload before you select your files to upload by simply clicking on the Privacy Setting button under the "Select files to upload" message.

The second way to adjust your default settings is to click on the gear icon next to the upload button at the top right corner of your YouTube account.  This is where you will select YouTube settings.  Next, you will be directed to the Overview page.  At the bottom left, under Additional features, select the View additional features button (see image below). 

Now, on the left sidebar under Channel Settings, select the Defaults tab.  When you select Defaults, you will be able to change your Upload Defaults settings.

Here's an example

Some settings that you might want to change are PrivacyCategory, and Comments and responses.

As a teacher, I would encourage students to change their Privacy default upload settings to either Unlisted, or Private.  This will keep their videos hidden until they are ready to change them to be Public.  For example, some students might want to edit their videos before they choose to publish them on the web.  Or, some students might not feel comfortable sharing their videos publicly, which is perfectly fine. Students can still choose to share their videos with their classmates and teachers inside of their Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account even if they have their Privacy settings set to either Unlisted, or Private.

I would also recommend changing the default Category to Education.  Most videos that students create in their GAFE YouTube accounts are more than likely for educational purposes. Therefore, this default setting naturally makes sense.  However, a student can still choose to change the Category for any video after it has been created or uploaded in his or her YouTube account.

The last recommendation I would make is to UNCHECK the box that reads, "Allow comments" under the Comments and responses category. Unfortunately, some students (and even some adults) can be cruel on YouTube by leaving inappropriate comments on YouTube videos.  If this box is unchecked, then (by default) others will not be able to make comments on videos.  On the other hand, I do recommend keeping the second box checked so that Users can view ratings for this video and other videos.  This allows users to be able to rate videos, which is a lot safer than allowing open-ended comments.

Now that you know

  1. Instead of changing your settings for EVERY video that you or your students upload to YouTube, consider changing your default upload settings to save time and energy. 
  2. What might you change in your default upload settings in your GAFE YouTube Account?  
  3. What might you encourage your students to change in their default upload settings in their GAFE YouTube Account?
  4. What other YouTube settings recommendations would you give to other educators and students?

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Did You Know? Snagit Beta Offers Screencasting for Chrome

Did you know that you can now use TechSmith Snagit to create a screen recording in Google Chrome? It's a new feature in Snagit Beta and all you need to do is turn it on to use it.

How does it work?

In addition to creating screenshots, Snagit now has the ability to create screencasts with its new features in Snagit Beta.  This is awesome because until now, most of us used Screencastify which is one of the only screencasting extensions that works with Google Chrome. TechSmith delivers some great products such as Camtasia, Jing, and others. But now it offers screencasting in Snagit ... for free!

To get started using Snagit Beta, you will need to search and connect both the TechSmith Snagit App and Extension in the Chrome Web Store (see image below).

After you have successfully installed both the Snagit App and Extension, click on the Snagit Extension icon in your Extensions tool bar in Chrome. 

Next, click on the "gear" symbol to get to your settings in the Snagit Extension.   In your settings, check the box that reads, "Enable experimental features".  This will enable "Beta" mode in Snagit which will allow you to create screencasts (see images below). 

Then, click the New Screen Recording button.  This will prompt the Configure Screen Recording window to appear.  Follow the three-step directions in this window by first clicking on the link in step 1.  This will take you to the page where you can "Enable screen capture support".  After you check this box, you will need to click "Relaunch Now" at the bottom of the page to restart Chrome (See images below). 

After your Chrome browser successfully restarts, go back into your Snagit settings and click the New Screen Recording button.  This will prompt a window to appear that will read, "Do you want TechSmith Snagit to share your screen?" and you will need to select "Yes" (see images below).  As soon as you select "Yes" you will begin to share your screen to create a screencast that will automatically be saved in your Snagit app. 

Here's an example

This is a great video from the guys at TechSmith that will walk you through this process creating a Snagit screencast from start to finish.   Checkout the video for additional support. 

Now that you know

  1. The next time you are using Google Chrome and find yourself needing to create a screencast, consider using the new Snagit Beta to create your screencast.  
  2. If your school is using ChromebooksSnagit is a great tool to use to create screen recordings for teaching and learning. 


TechSmith Blog: Announcing Screencasting in Snagit for Google Chrome

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Did You Know? A Better Zoom on Your Mac

Did you know that there is a more efficient way to zoom on a Macbook? All you have to do is turn on this feature in your System Preferences.

How it Works

Most of us have probably turned on all of our Zoom shortcuts on our Macs by going into our System Preferences, selecting Trackpad, and checking the boxes under Scroll & Zoom (see image below).

However, a better (and more efficient) zoom is available.  In order to activate this, you will have to go to your System Preferences, but select Accessibility instead (see image below).

Next, select the Zoom tab on the left and check the box that reads, "Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom".  Then you have the choice of selecting either the Command, Control, or Option key as your modifier key to control your zoom.  Now, when you scroll with two fingers on your trackpad, while simultaneously holding down your selected modifier key, you will be able to zoom in and out on your Mac. 

Here's an Example

Now that you know
  1. The next time you have to zoom on your Mac, consider turning on the "Scroll Gesture with Modifier Key". 
  2. Consider using this feature when you are giving demonstrations or presentations so that your audience can see your demo and read the text during your demo more easily.
  3. Consider turning on this feature for students who have impaired vision.
  4. Consider turning on this feature if you are using an 11-inch Macbook Air in order to maximize visibility. 

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Get Your "Add" On, with Google Add-ons

It's probably a good chance that you have already heard about the new Add-ons feature in Google Drive. If you haven't heard about it yet, check out the Google Official Enterprise Blog post to learn more about it.

Now, before you go and get your "Add" on with Google, there are a few things that you should know about this new feature.

1. New Google Sheets:  "Note that Add-ons for spreadsheets are only available in the new Google Sheets" [1].  To enable the new Google Sheets, open a Google Sheet, or create a new Sheet and click the button at the bottom right hand corner that says, "Try the new Google Sheets".

Then select the button that says "Get it Now".  

Now you should be able to see the new "Add-ons" tab at the top of your Sheets.  "The new version allows you to create and edit spreadsheets, whether you’re online or not, and adds a number of speed improvements, new functions, features and more" [2].  Here are a few of my favorite "Add-ons" to use for teaching and learning with Google Sheets.

2.  Google Apps Admin Controls:  "Google Apps admins have the option to disable add-ons through Drive settings in the Admin console. Users will always see the Add-ons menu and can browse them but will not be able to install them if the feature is disabled by the admin." [1].  I know that there has been some concern regarding security and privacy of some of these Add-ons so you might want to have these conversations with your Google Apps for Education Administrator.

Looking for more ways to "Add-on" to Google Apps?

Check out this YouTube video to find out how you can connect third-party apps to Google Drive, install Chrome Apps & Extensions, and enable Labs for Gmail and Calendar.


  1. Google Apps Updates Blog: Bring a Little Something Extra to Docs
  2. Google Support: Checkout the New Google Sheets
  3. Google Official Enterprise Blog: Bring a Little Something Extra to Docs
  4. Google Support: Enable add-ons in Google Docs

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Did you Know? Keyboard Shortcuts for Chrome

Photo Credit: Bradley Lands

Did you know that you can increase your productivity and efficiency in Google Chrome with some simple keyboard shortcuts?  There are actually five keyboard shortcuts that can really save you a lot of time and energy with Chrome.

Ironically, we as teachers usually preach to our students to NOT take the shortcuts in life. We want them to develop good habits of working hard in order to reap the rewards of their efforts. However, "keyboard" shortcuts are an exception to this rule!

How it works

There are many keyboard shortcuts that can be used across multiple platforms and devices.  The keyboard shortcut that I use most frequently is the "Find" shortcut by pressing Ctrl+F.  This allows you to not only search within any webpage for any letter, word, or phrase, but it also allows you to search most applications on any device, on any platform.  For example, I often use Ctrl+F to find key words or phrases in a PDF file, or in a Word doc on either my Macbook or PC.  It is important to note that when using most keyboard shortcuts, the Control (Ctrl) key is used for PCs and Chromebooks, whereas, the Command Key is used for Macs.

Here's an Example

The keyboard shortcuts that are listed in the table below are featured specifically for Chromebooks. I find that I use these shortcuts the most on a daily basis.  To see a list of all of the keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks, click on Chromebook Keyboard Shortcuts.

Search within any application or webpage for any letter, word, or phrase.

Reopen the last tab you've closed. Google Chrome remembers the last 10 tabs you've closed.
Open a new window in incognito mode
Locks your screen
Ctrl+Shift+Q (twice)
Sign out of your Google Account on Chrome

Want a shortcut to your keyboard shortcuts?  When you are logged into your Chromebook, simply press Ctrl+Alt+? to open a window that has a list of all Chromebook Keyboard Shortcuts

Now that you know
  1. The next time you find yourself short on time, or want to work more efficiently, try out some of these keyboard shortcuts for Chrome. 
  2. Search for ways to use similar keyboard shortcuts on a Mac or PC.

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