Showing posts from December, 2015

Text Me Merry Christmas: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 14

Bonus Tech Treat! A 21st Century Christmas Carol!

Sleigh Rides? Sugar Plums? Partridges? If you feel like your traditional Christmas Carols are still living in the 1800s, take a moment to enjoy this new Christmas song that reflects the best of modern communication!
Kristen Bell (of Veronica Mars and Frozen fame) and the a cappella group Straight No Chaser bring you "Text Me Merry Christmas" for your 2015 holiday pleasure! It's catchy, has a classic stop-motion video, and will warm the WiFi of your heart!
Text Me Merry Christmas - YouTube Video

BTW, it's perfectly safe to play in class, and students might get a kick out of it, too!
Happy Holidays!

Snow Closings Text Alerts: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 13?

Bonus Tip! Text Alerts for Snow Closings and Delays

My school, here in the greater Boston area, does not call teachers or activate the emergency phone tree in case of snow cancellations. Instead, fire up your AM radio and listen to the announcer read through the cancellations list.
Just kidding! Instead of sitting next to the radio, sign up for Text Alerts! As soon as Dr. Jackson notifies the broadcast media, you will get a text message on your cell phone notifying you about the cancellation or delay. This is a free service offered by WBZ in Boston.
Many of us signed up for this service in past years, but if you are new, or never signed up, or need to update/conform your settings, I've typed up step-by-step instructions on how to do it.
​>> School Closing Text Alert Instructions
​ Of course, if you don't have a cell phone, I always post the cancellation or delay on the HHS website, Facebook, and Twitter feeds, just as soon as I get my text alert!  :)

Google Santa Tracker (Plus a bonus Star Wars tip!): 12 Days of Techmas, Day 12

For the last day of tech tips, I wanted to give you some fun stuff you can share with your students (or savor for yourselves in free minute or two).

This year, Google expanded its Santa Tracker program into series of online games, learning activities, and cartoon animations. They call it Santa's Village: it started with five activities, and they added a new one every day in December.

Google Santa Village and Santa Tracker
This is great for students (and adults) with a little time to kill waiting for the Winter Break. It is designed as a "fun for everyone" kind of event, suitable for all ages.
Here is a list of my favorite parts of the Santa Village activities: Learn Code Lab - kids learn basic coding my moving your elf around the map#1 Season of Giving - online coloring book about environmental issues#3 Santa Selfie - give Santa a haircut, beard trim, and decorations to look fabulous#4 Translations - translate and hear common Holiday terms in the world's languages#7 …

Special Characters: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 11

There's a lot of talk about web apps and the Googleverse lately, but I thought it might be nice to share a tip about the teachers' tried-and-true friend, MS Word.

Today's tech treat is about Special Characters. Not the special characters sitting in the back row of your B Block class -- I mean special invisible symbols that MS Word uses for formatting and spacing.
I field this question a lot: "Why is Word spacing or formatting strangely?" Without knowing exactly what the person was typing, it's sometimes hard to say. For example, let's troubleshoot this page of text. What's with the weird spacing?

My first step in troubleshooting is to Show Special Characters. I do that by clicking the button that looks like a "Paragraph mark", like so:

Word 2007/2010/2013

​ Word 2003
​ Now I see the "invisible special characters" that are telling Word how to format the page.
Recognizing the symbols helps me figure out what is wrong. These are the mo…

Winter Break Backup: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 10

12Days of Techmas, Day 10: Winter Break Backup

As part of a tech person's traditional "sales pitch" to get people to backup their files, we usually describe horror stories of how you could lose all your stuff. Because this is the festive holiday season, I'm going to skip the doom and gloom, and assume you know all the reasons to back up your files. 
OK? Are we agreed? You know why it's important to backup your files? OK, let's move on to the "how."
As a Google for Education district, each teacher gets unlimited storage space in the Google Drivefor storing files. It's not really designed to serve only as a backup, but why not use it if you got it?
Winter break is a great time to do a backup. Copying all of your files takes a long time (hours or days) and temporarily slows your computer, so it's most practical to do it when you don't need to use the computer for a day or two,
Basic Files Backup on Google Drive Pick a day/time when you can le…

Gmail Inbox Organization: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 9

In Gmail, you can  organize your inbox so that your most important stuff is near the top. There are a few different ways to set up it, but I'll show how I set up my Inbox and let you experiment from there.
​My Inbox shows email in this order of priority: 1. Starred Emails, both read and unread 2. Important and Unread 3. Everything else

"Importance" is determined automatically by Google, and it does a really good job.
Stars are marked by me. If I read a message that I know I need to come back to I click the Star icon on the message (as shown in the two images below). By starring emails, I know I won't lose forget about important messages as new email comes in. 

 To set this up for your Inbox, click the Settings Gear and choose "Settings."
Then, click the Inbox tab, and adjust the settings until 1-4 look like mine.
​ As you set yours up, you will notice that there are other options that you may prefer. Try it out and see what works best for you!

Chromebook FAQs: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 8

12Days of Hanutech, Day 8: Chromebooks FAQ

Since Chromebooks became a major topic of conversation at my school, there have been lots of questions about how Chromebooks work. As today's tech treat, I'm sharing a little FAQ sheet that compares how laptops and Chromebooks work. Here are a few examples:
Can students work without an internet connection? Laptops: yes, they can create, edit, and save files on the hard drive Chromebooks: yes, they can create, edit, and save files in “offline mode,” which will sync next time they are online
How long does the battery last? Laptops: 2-3 hours Chromebooks: 8-12 hours
You can check out the rest of the questions and answers in the doc below! ​
Chromebooks FAQ
​ Have suggestions for other questions? Comment below!

Kahoot!: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 7

Kahoot is the cool new review app that is raging through classrooms across the country. It combines quick review question quizzing with the best elements of gaming.

The idea is that you make short multiple choice questions based on quick recall -- vocabulary review is a great example. On your computer and projector, you display the question, and students can respond on their laptops or smartphones. There is music and a timer, and the students get points based on how quickly they answer.
What's difficult to express in a post like this is how fun it is for students to play. The Kahoot makers have really added some of the secret sauce that makes video gaming fun, and it has a wide appeal for grades 3-12. Don't let the bright colors fool you -- high school age kids really enjoy reviewing with Kahoot (my 9th grade daughter and her friends say that Kahoot reviews are the best part of their Spanish and Social Studies classes).
It's freeeasy for teachers to use, super easy for…

Online Video Converter: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 6

Audio and video formatsare a pain in the neck. It happens too often that we find a great audio or video clip, but then when we try to do something with it (upload to Moodle, email, play on a computer, download, or whatever), the audio or video format is wrong and it doesn't work. There are downloadable programs for converting files, but they are usually complicated and hard to use.

That's why I really like It is super simple. You upload an audio or file (or import it from your Google Drive), choose the format, and click Convert. It spends a few minutes processing, and then downloads the converted file to your computer. Nice and easy.

​ It's not super fast, since it has to upload the file, process it, and then download the conversion; however, it's free, it's very reliable (in that the conversions nearly always work), and it's easy. Also, it's in the Chrome store and works as a Chrome app.
I recommend this online app to teach…

Generic Entrance/Exit Tickets Pt. 2: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 5

12 Days of Techmas, Day 5: Generic Entrance/Exit Tickets Pt. 2

Today's tech treat is a continuation of "12 Days, Day 4." It's more like a tutorial than other days, but it makes those entrance/exit tickets really easy to analyze.  Tomorrow's "12 Days" tip will be much shorter, I promise!

After your students submitted their Entrance/Exit tickets, you would like to know how well the class did. As an example, let's say students from two different classes submitted exit tickets on two different days.  

A copy of the spreadsheet I'm using for my examples can be found here. If you want to follow along with this tutorial, open the link and then choose "File > Make a copy..." ​ There is a cool little feature in Google Sheets called the "Filter" tool. You turn it on (or off) by clicking the little funnel-shaped button on the far right.
This changes the top row of your spreadsheet, to give each header (e.g. Name, Today's Date, Cl…

Generic Entrance/Exit Tickets Part 1: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 4

12 Days of Techmas, Day 4: Generic Entrance/Exit Tickets Part 1

Entrance and Exit Tickets have grown significantly in popularity because of their wide range of utility. They are great for formatively assessingstudent learning, they are a good classroom routine for the first or last 5 minutes of class when the teacher is otherwise busy, and they are easy to set up.
Google Forms is a digital tool that works great for entrance/exit tickets. Used incorrectly, they are fussy and time consuming. Teachers feel like they spent more time creating and checking the tickets than they would have if they had just used paper. But what if you only had to set up the digital ticket once, and used the same one all term long?

Generic Entrance/Exit Tickets to the rescue!
[Lazy teacher's tip: click here and make your own copy of the form without having to follow the steps below. The form and results spreadsheet will both copy into your Google Drive.] Create a Google Form*, and name it Entrance/Exit Ticket.

Semi-public Speaking: 12 Days of Hanutech, Day 3

12 Days of Hanutech, Day 3: Semi-public Speaking

Today's Tech Treat is a lesson idea for a way to add some variety to homework: have students record a speech.

The ability to write and deliver a well-constructed, well-considered speech is an important part of 21st Century learning (actually, it was an important part of all of the other centuries as well!). Delivering a speech forces the speechwriter to reflect on their word choice, organization, and language construction in ways that are similar to but critically different from writing text. 
Unfortunately, the traditional "oral report" is a huge time-killer in class, and speaking in front of peers can be stressful for many students.
What's great about our technology tools is that students can easily record themselves with laptops and smartphones, and upload and share these videos with you digitally. This means students can deliver their speeches "semi-privately" and can allow them to focus on how to give a …

gMath for Google Docs: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 2

Thanks to the add-on system inGoogle Docs, students (and teachers) can create mathematical formulas to insert into their math and science documents. It's using a Google add-on calledgMath, and it lets students click to build complex formulas, equations, and mathematical graphs. 

When you install and turn on the add-on, a sidebar pops up giving students clickable buttons, much like the old formula editor in MS Word. After you create the formula, just click "Insert" and it pops the formula right into the Google Doc. Another option is to create graphs of mathematical formulas.
The Builder Sidebar

Some examples I created using gMath:

​[For math nerds: it actually teaches as well as helps. The click-button system is really a Latex expression builder, and students will learn the basics of Latex while making and editing equations.]
OK, so I wouldn't recommend this for nightly math homework, but if your students are working on something a little more formal that requires formu…

"Insert Comment" Keyboard Shortcut for Google Docs: 12 Days of Techmas, Day 1

Children and adults all over the country love this time of the year, because it's time for Mr. Reeve's 12 Days of Techmas!  :)   Throughout December, I'll be posting little tech tips and hints to make your season bright!

Day 1:  "Insert Comment" Google Docs Keyboard Shortcut
Many frequently used functions in Google Docs have keyboard shortcuts. They allow you to quickly edit/comment/format a document with a few handy keystrokes, cutting down on the (relatively) slower process of moving and clicking the mouse.
As an example, my favorite keyboard shortcut within a Google Doc is the "Insert Comment" shortcut. As you read through student work, simply click where you want the comment to go, hit Ctrl+Alt+M (⌘+Option+M on a Mac) on your keyboard and start typing! The "mouse way" to do this requires 3 clicks, which adds up to a lot of time when done for 5 comments each in 50 student writing samples.

Most other frequently used items in Google Docs also …