rachel burkett

Fluco Toolbox: PrintFriendly

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever found a great article online that you wanted to share with your students, but when you tried to print it, it was hard to read? Worry no more because there’s a tool to fix that!

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: PrintFriendly

First, the basics:

Name: PrintFriendly
URL: http://www.printfriendly.com
Cost: Free
Problem this tool solves: Makes web articles easy to read and print friendly. Provides users with the ability to modify the look of the article, as well as save it as a .PDF, email, or print it directly from the page.

PrintFriendly is a handy little website that you’ll wonder how you did without! It allows you to take an article from a web page and make it print friendly, as the name of the website suggests. I’m sure we’ve all run across the articles that take up too many pages when printed, don’t fit nicely or a page, or copy/paste creates a nightmare of a mess.

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PrintFriendly’s homepage. Simply paste the URL of the article into the search box to begin.

All one has to do is find an article from a website. If you simply want to see how PrintFriendly works, then use the “Try it” feature below the search box on the main page. PrintFriendly will pull up an article from one of the sites listed, and allow you to test out their features.

Once you have an article, then the fun begins. PrintFriendly lets you play with the text size, the image size (or remove images completely), and allows you to delete sections of the article that you don’t need. You’ll find that PrintFriendly already gets rid of those pesky ads within the article for you. At any time, you can click

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Check out those editing tools. If you wish to delete text from the article, just hover over the text, and you’ll get an option to delete it.

When the article is modified to your liking, then you may print directly from the page, create a PDF that can be saved, or email a copy of the article to someone. That’s it!

PrintFriendly is a very simply and easy to use tool, and will definitely change how you use articles within your classroom. Give it a try and see what a difference it makes!

Resources

If you need a visual tutorial, check out this video:

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Fluco Toolbox: G Suite Training

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever been working within the G Suite tools, and suddenly realized you didn’t know how to do something or find a particular tool? Google has put together a Google Chrome extension that solves just that!

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: G Suite Training

First, the basics:

Name: G Suite Training
URL: http://tinyurl.com/j87jnjo
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: This Google extension provides training and interactive walk-throughs while you work within G Suite. At any time while in the G Suite tools, there will be a button with a question mark and Google colors around the outside. Users can search the database for answers to any question they may have about using G Suite.

Sometimes it’s good to have a tutorial or database full of answers to our questions right within our grasp. Google has created the G Suite Training extension to assist new and old users with the G Suite programs. Once the extension is installed, a simple refresh of any Google apps currently open will activate the extension. You’ll now see a button that looks like this in the upper right corner of all apps:

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Clicking on this button will pull up a new box. The content in this box will vary, depending on the G Suite app you are using, but it will show a search bar and suggestions to help guide you. The image below shows suggestions for using Gmail:

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Within the current suggestions, I can watch a video on an overview of Gmail, or I can select “Composing, Editing, and Sending Email” to see further help topics in that category. The best part is that there are interactive lessons in each section. If I was new to the G Suite world and needed to go through an overview of Gmail, I can press the red play button on that topic. A lesson will begin. It will show me the text and read it to me, and then use my screen to guide me through Gmail. As it guides me, I am asked to click and interact with the screen. I can choose to end the lesson at any time by clicking anywhere on the screen.

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Resources

Video – G Suite Training: This video is a quick look at the G Suite Training extension.

 

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Embarking Toward Kindness

This year, I have decided to try some different in how I interact with people. A fellow colleague, Tamara Letter, has inspired me with her work with kindness and her own students. I wanted to do my own work with kindness, and though I feel as though I am bumbling along, I feel like I am starting to make a difference, even if it is a small one. I’m finding my way along, so a lot of what I do is trial and error as I come up with different ideas.

My first act was designing the FlucoGram program. I have everything set to roll with this pretty much, and the school will purchase the supplies I need. Once a month during lunch shifts, students and teachers will be able to visit my table. They will be able to fill out 1 card for another teacher or student. I’ll take the cards collected and sort through them to be delivered. Teachers will also be made aware that if there is a student they know of who could use some kind thoughts to let me know and we can send a FlucoGram to them at any point in the year.

While I was designing the FlucoGram program, I also planned to really get new staff at both of my schools off on the right foot. I had already been asked by my high school principal to keep in close contact with his new teachers via email, so I decided to do the same with the new middle school teachers. However, I knew that I wanted to do more, and so ended up writing a welcome card to each new staff member. I had bought some scratch ‘n sniff stickers and put those inside as well. I placed them in each teacher’s mailbox.

What was funny was that I did hear back from those teachers. Not every teacher, of course, but some of them. They were grateful for the kind words. One teacher even told me that she was worried and doubting herself as the year started, and then she received my card and the words just spoke to her. What had seemed like just words to me made a powerful impact on her. That made me smile. Doing this is not about receiving thank yous or accolades, but it is about making others feel good, making them smile. That’s all I care about, whether they tell me about it or not.

Because of this bright start, I’m going to pick some staff members from each school every week and write them a small card. I have plenty of extras, and I want to make them smile as well. I have a list of staff from each school, so I can easily track this and try not to miss anyone. It will be a lofty goal, as I have almost 100 teachers alone at the high school. No one said it was going to be easy though.

I do have another plan for my Kindness Project, but I’m not going to share it just yet until I get it rolling at both schools. It will be in the media center, and both library media specialists have approved the idea. I just need to get things rolling with it first because I want to have some images to share as well.

I hope to have more ideas and inspiration throughout the year. I just want to try new things and make my schools a little bit brighter for the teachers and staff. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and it’s rewarding, and that’s what matters most.

#TLAP: Tone Makes a Difference

It’s been a crazy time, and last week school started for staff in Fluvanna County. Ever since Monday, it’s been a flurry of activity, but I have had time to begin incorporating new ideas and projects into my work already. One thing I have already done is changed how I present to staff, and the results were fantastic. Let’s travel back to August 1st…

On August 1st, I was at the high school to attend the opening day faculty meeting. I had been scheduled by the principal to present since the end of the previous year. Over the summer, I had developed a Slides presentation to introduce FlucoTech, and later I’d tweaked it to add in stuff about my role as an ITRT. My presentation already used Bitmoji images, as they are fun and draw the audience in. The only thing left was how I would present all of the information.

After meeting both Dave Burgess and George Couros in the early summer, I realized what a difference the way information is presented makes. This was further demonstrated by the Bowtie Tech Guys at WVSTC. How we share that information is just as important, and after this summer, anyone who tells me that students should simply learn the information because they have to should think again. As Burgess discusses in Teach Like a Pirate, we’re competing for students’ attention from so many outlets. If we can’t go with the flow and hook them on our material, we have lost them and we have lost out.

As teachers, we have attended professional development sessions where we loved hearing the presenter, and others where we’d rather gouge our eyeballs out because it was so boring. Think of how those sessions were presented though. Did they engage you? Did they draw on stories, jokes, imagery, videos, or some other form of showmanship? Think of how the “boring” sessions were presented now. Was it simply a presenter speaking in a bland manner while referring to some kind of slide presentation?

For my presentation, I grabbed my pirate flag and hat. This alone had folks curious. The image on the title screen of my slide was a bitmoji that said “Let’s taco about it”. My presentation was the last one scheduled on the agenda… over two hours into the faculty meeting. By this time, people are ready to go, they’re done, they’re bored. My teachers were high school ones, and they were quite a large group.

I immediately start with “Ahoy there!” and get a lackluster response. I remark to the principal that his crew must be dead, and then do it again. This time I get a much better response, and from there we are off and running. I’m loud, I’m animated, I’m working to get them to laugh. The information itself is not the most interesting to many of them and I know that, so I draw them in in other ways.

When I was finished, I heard many compliments from my teachers, and how they enjoyed the presentation. Some told me it was the best one of the morning, others appreciated the way I made them feel comfortable. I have since heard many more compliments, which lets me know I’m on the right track with engagement. I also had a lot of teachers reach out to me for help after that, which really contributed to my busy schedule at the high school last week.

In contrast, I have yet to do such a presentation at the middle school, and I do feel this has made a difference with the staff I have interacted with so far this year. The principal has mentioned having me present at a faculty meeting next week, but this is not set in stone just yet. We will see what happens when I do though.

Overall, I have found that tone and showmanship make all the difference. I am definitely heading in the right direction with my work, and will keep building on it throughout this year. All it takes is a small spark to make a big difference!

3 Friendly Reminders for Teachers With Social Media

As the school year begins, teachers start fresh. New ideas, new plans, new room layouts. While the new year prep work is completed, teachers shouldn’t forget to double check their social media accounts.

From Facebook to Instagram, Snapchat to Twitter social media has found its way into our lives. Not everyone is on social media, but those who are, especially teachers, should remember to keep these points in mind:

  1. Privacy– It’s always good to do a privacy check every now and then for all of your social media accounts. Check to see what things are shared publicly, and how easy it is to find you. Some teachers opt to use different parts of their name instead of their true last name. This is really up to the individual’s tastes and desires. However, do keep in mind that no matter how locked down you think your account is, it is not private. Those party pictures, drinking, or somewhat inappropriate posts can easily be used against your with screenshots by any of your friends or family, no matter how unlikely you think it is to happen.
  2. Friend Requests– As the year begins and things begin to settle into a routine, you may find yourself receiving friend requests from students and parents. Student requests should never be accepted. Some teachers opt to tell the student that they may send a friend request the day after their graduation from high school, while others do not want to friend students at all, even beyond high school. Parent requests are a tricky beast because while you may get along with the parent at the time, there’s always the chance of fallout. It’s better to be safe than sorry and refuse parent requests. I usually message students and parents who try to friend me to let them know my thoughts, and then I leave them in friend request limbo. Leaving them in limbo means they are always showing on your friend requests page, BUT they can never send a second friend request as long as they still have one pending.
  3. Content– Content brings our social media to life, but it can also be used against us at any time. No matter how locked down you think your account is, it’s not going to keep your content absolutely private. If you’re sharing drinking photos, party images, or anything that might come across as possibly offensive to someone, be cautious. The rule of thumb I usually tell others is that if it’s not something you’d want to share with a respected older person or religious figure, then it’s probably not something you want on your feed. Even if your account is locked to a certain group, always consider everything you post as having the potential to be very public.

If you keep these three things in mind, then you’ll find your life on social media much easier. Of course, you can avoid social media all together, but then you leave yourself open to other issues. That’s a story for another time!

Minecraft with a 5 Year Old: Round 2

A lot of folks really enjoyed the last time that I posted about playing Minecraft with a 5 Year Old, so I thought I’d continue with another update on what Reed and I have been up to since the last time.

Reed and I have not often been in the world together much since the last time, as we have different schedules, and he had trouble going down for his afternoon nap/rest the last time he played at my mom’s with me in the world. We took a break, but Reed got to try again today and did much better.

Prior to this, he had not often built much on his own when it was just him in world. He would make a building here and there, or add some interior touches, but it wasn’t much. With him earning the chance to try again with me in the world at the same time, I knew I wanted to get a lot accomplished.

Someone asked me last time how we decide what to build in our world. Mostly, I lay out the foundation for the buildings and begin building up. Sometimes I leave the interior unfurnished and let Reed have fun with that. Other times, I finish the entire build on my own. Below are some examples of Reed’s interior decorating:

Today it was more of a tag team effort. I would lay the foundation and begin the walls. I wanted to see how well Reed could follow a design and continue patterns, a skill I knew he’d need for kindergarten. I would start the layers and he would find the block and continue building what I had started. He was able to figure out how tall the pattern needed to be as well. Mind you, he and I have no way to talk at this point in time, so he was watching what I had done and then continuing the work on his own.

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Here’s an example of Reed completing patterns I would start. I would start the layer and he would finish, doubling the layer if needed.

Reed still liked doing the interiors, and sometimes he’d pop inside to add his own creations. We didn’t work on those much for the most part, as I wanted to build as many new buildings as we could make in the time we had, which was about an hour together. I know he’ll work on them on his own time later, and I leave those to him. I have noticed him using some of the skills that he’s picked up from me. There are times when I put in floor and destroy one layer of blocks to add in the colored floor blocks. He’s been doing that. Another time, the door was one block too high, and on his own he found the stair blocks and placed one so that it was easy to climb to the door.

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Reed’s solution to the door problem.

There was one particular building where I laid a foundation and Reed immediately had an idea and began the second layer. I followed him with the next layer in the pattern, and we continued building up and up until he seemed satisfied and I added the roof on top.

I always love laying out the pathways, lighting, and benches between the buildings, so I have plenty to work on now and add to so that our little city is easier to navigate. Since it’s Friday, Reed will get a chance to play with me this evening again, so we’ll see what he does. I’m going to keep making random foundations, and this time I believe that I will keep making them and see if he takes over building up and designing.

Here are the updated images of our city, currently dubbed “RayReedville”. It has grown quite a bit since you last saw it!

Do you have something you’d like to challenge Reed and I to add to our city? Comment below!

#LeadLAP: Rapport Scores

It doesn’t matter who you lead, whether it’s students, teachers, or staff in general. If you don’t have their trust, they aren’t going to respect you or assist you in your grand visions. You can have the greatest ideas in the world. They can be the best of the best, guaranteed to succeed, but if you don’t have a crew behind you that trusts your ideas and helps bring them to fruition, then your idea ship is sunk before it even leaves the harbor.

As someone in any leadership position, you cannot lock yourself behind your doors and hide behind emails and all-call announcements to staff members. Then you’re merely a ghost in the school, haunting, but never immersing yourself with your staff. By hiding, you’ve now created a barrier with a line that divides administration from staff.

I was lucky at one of my previous schools to work under a principal who was always around. Every morning she would go to each classroom and tell the kids hello and to work their best. She was often in the halls and with staff. When bad things happened to staff, she supported them. She participated in the events with the students, and did crazy things. If I needed to see her, it wasn’t that hard to get ahold of her at all. Her staff respected and trusted her, and it was easily seen. At one point there were rumors that she might leave the school for an administration position at another, and her staff fretted at the thought of losing her. She had built rapport, and it was easily seen.

On the other hand, I’ve been in places where this wasn’t so noticeable, or was only sometimes. Being under administration that is never seen or that rules with the fist of compliance makes for a stressful workplace. Instead of feeling trusted and respected, you feel as though you’re never working hard enough or never doing anything right. Some teachers simply give up and shrug, content to float along, convinced that this too, shall pass.

Myself, I am still getting better with this. I am going to make a better effort this year to be rapport with more folks in both of my schools, especially now that I am in my second year. The second year last time made the biggest difference, and instead of being timid and hesitant, I was jumping in and getting things done. I want to do that this year in this district as well. I don’t have to worry about not knowing my way around or how things really work in the district. Those barriers are gone. Time to take some action.

I recently ordered a pirate flag, mostly because I wanted something to always remind me of the PIRATE system. I still need to get the rod and clips for it, but part of me is now thinking one way to set myself apart and spark some interesting conversations is to carry my flag around the school with me everywhere I go on my first days back with staff. This may or may not also involve a pirate hat or bandana of some kind. Parading about like this while I do my job gets me the crazy looks, and lets me talk to any staff member who calls me out on my craziness. The first days are crazy and hectic, but I can make them memorable!

I’m still working on other ways to build rapport. I need to find ways to get myself into more classrooms this year and talk with more teachers. This is something I’m still thinking about and deciding upon. I can’t do much good from my office if I’m to be assisting staff. I know I need to build it though, and I have some ideas, but they aren’t enough just yet to share. The first step though, is KNOWING I need to do better in this area and improve!