technology

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.

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!

Telling the BETTER EduStory: Evaluations vs. Digital Portfolios

(Before I get too far into this blog post, I want to make it very clear right away that this post is not advocating for doing away with evaluations of any type, student or teacher. It is, however, advocating for them, but with a heavy emphasis on a digital portfolio.)

Raise your hand if you received an evaluation this year? Raise your hand if you had multiples? What about multiple evaluations that culminated in an end of year overall evaluation.

What can you tell me about you as an educator based on your evaluation? Sure you can tell me you scored 2s or 4s in an area. You might say “I got a 3 on professional development. It means I’m proficient.” Someone else might look at their evaluation and say “Well my evaluator told me I had got a 2 in the area of instructional goals because I made an inconsistent effort to include the standards in my lesson plans.”

Does the above describe you? I mean, really describe you as an educator. Does it provide explicit details about your activities, your thoughts, and your learning throughout the year? Does it showcase the work with students and how you personalized learning? Would the above even mean the same thing to an evaluator in another district?

Chances are, you said no to the above questions, just as you’d say no to the end of year state exams describing any of your students. Evaluations are merely pinpricks of time, dots on the school year. They give tiny snapshots and glimpses of work, but they never tell a full and detailed story. They don’t showcase the learning and growth that has truly happened, unless you want to play by numbers alone. That would be foolish.

Some of you have been reading for awhile. You’ve seen my work here and on my Twitter feed, @tisinaction. I have been sharing actively for a few years now. This year I was in a district where I was actually given an evaluation for my position. It was the only one I received all year that would go into my file. There actually wasn’t a suitable evaluation form for an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, so the form for Instructional Support Personnel was used instead. Let me show you my evaluation:

Yes, I shared my evaluation with you. Do you know much about what I did this school year? Does it talk about my explorations and learning as I researched professional development? Does it talk about my travels to different trainings, conferences, and workshops? Does it talk about my connected educator status and how I use Twitter and my blog to showcase my learning and work? It does not. There is so much that this evaluation does not show. Based on this alone, you’d have no idea if I was any good or not at my job unless you went by these arbitrary numbers. You would have no idea of the things I could bring to your district, or even if I was the right fit. You’re only getting a tiny, microscopic summary of my educational work!

If anyone really wanted to see my growth and learning, I’d invite them to this blog and my Twitter feed. My blog posts are also shared on my Facebook feed, and always made public to the world. I want you to see them. If you’re an administrator and you stumble on my page, that’s the first thing I want you to see. I want you to see how I came to develop FlucoTECH. I want you to see how I taught Minecraft to rising 1st and 2nd graders. I want you to see the things I saw and learned at VSTE, Copenhaver Institute, and 2 different edcamps this year. You want to see my work leading new initiatives? Check out my work on school branding! Oh what about my commitment to continually learning? Look at the book reflections I’ve written and the Twitter edchats I’ve participated in. The list goes on and on…

The point is, my real story is not going to be found in my evaluation, but in how I have shared online with my colleagues and the educational community at large. If you really want to take a look at my growth and learning, this work is where you’ll find your answers, not in an arbitrary 3 on a piece of paper.

This is why teachers should create a digital portfolio. How they choose to share their work is up to them, but they should be sharing. Share your successes, your fails, your learning. Create a video, write a blog, take a picture and caption it. Just start sharing. You may never be famous or have many people view it, but it is there to document your educator journey, and that cannot be replicated by anyone else.

When teachers realize the importance of the digital portfolio for telling their stories, then they can have students do the same. The portfolio should be ongoing, never ending. Students should be able to contribute to this portfolio often, not only a few times a year. They should share their school items and have a chance to showcase some of their passions and interests. They should have times where they can choose how to share their stories. What would make more sense to parents? A piece of paper with a list of words read aloud during an oral reading session, or three separate videos that showcase the oral readings instead?

When it comes time for conferences, students can choose their best works from their digital portfolios to have showcased. They can use a website such as Storify, or even create a post in their blog that links to their best works. There are many ways.

If one were to go even further, a teacher could easily use the digital porfolios to learn more about students that might be in his or her classroom in the fall. The portfolio gives a better overall picture of the student, instead of just the test scores that get passed on. Teachers would be able to begin figuring out ways to connect with the incoming students before they even arrive!

If you’ve never tried a digital portfolio, now is the time to get started. There’s no reason not to have one in this day and age of being connected. Learn to use it for yourself, model for students, and then have students utilize. It will change the way you look at being evaluated!

Minecraft With a 5 Year Old

As many of you know, Minecraft is a passion of mine, and one way I connect with students. I lead workshops on building and design, and am always improving. I also love playing to relax because I can control my world and be creative.

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Reed and I, June 2017

Meet Reed. Reed turned 5 in February of this year. I had been wanting to teach him Minecraft, and 5 became the magic number. I came home to visit family the very next month, and spent some time with Reed. We booted up Minecraft PE on my iPad, and Reed was off. He did what all kids are apt to do when they first begin to play: blow stuff up with TNT and set fire to the world. Yes, he just wanted to watch the world burn.

He loved the game so much that he wanted to buy it for his tablet. His mom told him he would have to save up the money to buy it. He had a joint birthday party with his brother that weekend, and he was adamant that he would get enough to buy the game. Sure enough, he stuck by my side at the party, and any time he got money, he would ask if it was enough to buy Minecraft. He easily earned his money, and was happy to buy the game.

Reed learned to play Minecraft on his own from that point. He had help from his mom, and he sometimes watched YouTube videos as well. He apparently loves Stampy Cat, and I made sure to tell his mom that pretty much any Minecraft video is safe for young eyes. He loves to try to build things he sees. He would build houses, and one time he played with the railway tracks.

He also had a lot of help from an older daycare boy named Caden. Caden is heading into the 6th grade now, but he came to daycare once a week. He and Reed would play on a LAN world, and Caden would help Reed learn to create or find the tools he needed to build. Caden gave Reed someone to look up to, and someone to ask about Minecraft things when he couldn’t talk to me or his mom didn’t know.

Reed also knew that I was coming home to visit in June, and that I would play Minecraft with him. He was excited to play with his “Ray Ray”, and I was ready to introduce him to Realms. I wanted to be able to build with Reed, and now that I knew he was hooked on playing and building, it seemed perfect. It would be our way to keep in touch while I was so far away. We’re separated by about 3 hours of car travel (give or take), so we don’t often get to see each other.

For those unfamiliar, Realms is a simple server setup where players can get together to build. I purchased the 2 player model because it was only for Reed and I. During my visit, I introduced him to the world and the ground rules- no destroying other people’s hard work and no TNT. We began building while I was there for a brief period, and Reed loved that he could play with Ray Ray and make cool stuff.

After I went home, Reed was eager for me to build in the world. When I finally started, he loved finding the stuff I made. He flap his hands in joy, would look around, and then build new things to add to our little world. I am pretty sure his mom is learning little by little as well, since I know Reed isn’t the one spelling on the signs!

The first time I built something, I was unable to finish it. I left it for later. Imagine my surprise when I logged back in that evening, only to find that Reed had finished it for me! At first I was caught off guard, but then I thought about it from his point of view. He got to finish something that Ray Ray started, and he got to decorate it and put up signs.

With that thought in mind, I began another building, again leaving it unfinished. I am curious to see how Reed will finish it. I left a sign telling him to do what he wanted to finish it. I plan to build some other things today that I will finish. I may also start leaving signs giving Reed build challenges to see what he can come up with. I want his creativity sparked and I want to see how he approaches building. So many kids lose their creativity as the years go by, and I don’t want that to happen to him.

I am learning to just let my imagination fly wild. I am not the best builder, and on the fly building is new for me. I’m used to planning or attempting to build things I see. But Reed doesn’t care about any of that. He only cares that his Ray Ray is adding to the world and making things, just like he is. He doesn’t care that a building isn’t perfect, or that the roof is flat. He doesn’t care what materials he uses. He just wants to have fun and build.

This is our world so far:

We have built houses for each of us, and then Reed turned the one building into both a church and office. I added in the pathways and lighting to go from building to building. Some of the buildings are for animals I believe. I’m not sure. Knowing Reed, there’s a story behind each thing he’s built. I may have to see about capturing some of his ideas later on.

We should all be more creative, and just let our imaginations run free. We should build what we like and share the ideas and stories behind them. We should all be more like Reed!

 

Copenhaver Institute 2017: Day 2 & 3

Day 2 dawned early, and I felt well rested after my early bedtime the previous night. I had a lot more sleep, so I was wide awake and ready to go. I met up with Heidi for breakfast and we talked of looking forward to hearing George Couros speaking. I knew how passionate he was about opening sharing and being connected through social media, such as with Twitter. Based on what I’d seen so far on Twitter from the Copenhaver hashtag, very few people actually used Twitter regularly. It had been disappointing because I was so used to seeing other people’s notes on learning.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed when it was time to hear George speak. He even recognized my face, and realized that he had been reading my tweets a little while ago. I was pleased. I love being recognized. Then again, who wouldn’t? I had a front row seat, and settled myself in with my Chromebook for some great learning.

George made many educators uncomfortable in the room. He totally threw them out of their comfort zone, and it was amazing. He wanted them to connect, share, and take risks. He did not apologize, and in fact, he said himself that he would make many uncomfortable and didn’t care. I would giggle to myself as I tweeted out bits of learning here and there.

A large portion of the time was spent on detailing why educators should share online. There is no longer an option to say “I can’t” because technology is so easily available to teachers. Teachers make the choice not to, and they harm themselves and their students in this regard. They are not regularly exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, or a connected network that they can reach out to at any time, not to mention the myriad of resources that can be found.

Discussion also focused on being open when it came to educational things. There is no separation of personal and professional online lives. Just because you think that your Facebook is locked down, doesn’t mean it truly is. It never will be, and to think otherwise is to have a false sense of security. There isn’t any need for a locked Twitter account. What are you hiding there? Why do you not have a bio, a good profile image, or a digital portfolio of any kind? What is holding you back? Are you the one holding yourself back?

When educators learn to use Twitter for educational purposes, they unlock a new community of educators, resources, and ideas. These educators are willing to grow and learn and try new things. They are also willing to help others as well. George even said at one point that if you can’t learn to use Twitter then you shouldn’t be an educator. It’s a very strong statement, but true. Why keep yourself away from 24 hour access to amazing things? Why harm your students in that way?

If you’re looking for ways to get started with Twitter, but aren’t really sure how, then there is a book you can read. I actually picked this up at Copenhaver myself so I could have it for the resources for other teachers. It does give you tips on getting started, and ways to use Twitter as well.

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You can find it on Amazon

 

George certainly did not hold back. He moved on to talk about a balanced lifestyle. We always hear of folks talking about leading a balanced lifestyle, juggling work, hobbies, family, etc. What is balanced for one person is completely unbalanced for another, or is not something they consider important. Instead, one should frame it as “Do I lead a meaningful life?” This way it can be adapted to anyone. Each person decides what the most meaningful things are in their lives and then determines how they fit together. If you can answer “no” to that question, then you need to reconsider your life and what you consider to be meaningful.

The final part of Couros’ presentation focused on leadership. He talked of how one person can make a difference within their faculty. Of course, that could be a good or bad difference. Twitter can help those who want to become better leaders, as well as books, such as Lead Like a Pirate. I haven’t read it yet, but my colleagues who have say it’s fantastic and worth it. I don’t want to be an admin at all, but I do want to lead better in the role that I have as an ITRT.

After George’s session, I was able to get my book signed and speak with him. He’s a great guy, and if you haven’t seen him before, you should. Be prepared for his brutal honesty though because he doesn’t hold back, and he doesn’t hold hands. He expects you to think and work the way that we want our students to think and work.

After that, it was off to the afternoon sessions! There were two this time head for, and I chose to hit up “Innovative Tools and Strategies that Solve Problems and Inspire Creativity” as well as “Books to Promote Creativity”. The innovative tools one was interesting, though many of the tools were things my district does not have the funding for or prefer. There were iPads that were driven by robotic legs, Google Cardboard, and an augmented reality sand table that focused on topography. The augmented reality table was built by hand, and after I shared video on Twitter, I ended up with instructions to build my own. Yes, Twitter is that amazing!

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This table was programmed to teach topography. As one manipulated the sand, the topography would change and update. It was a lot easier to see how changes to the land affected topography. I wish I had this as a kid!

When it came to “Books to Promote Creativity”, the session had so much to share, and so little time to share it in. The presenters talked about how it takes just one book or picture or phrase to spark something in a student. After all, most of us could recall our favorite books as children, and the impact they had upon our young selves. Many books today can be found on problem solving, creativity, and failure. These books fit perfectly into the innovator’s mindset that we want our young ones to take on. I would say STEAM/STEM, but this is truly a mindset that we want others to carry with them in all aspects of their lives. There were many extras to pick up at the end of this session, but I didn’t have time because I had signed up to join a crew on the River Walk. I hope that in the future they provide time between the final session and that so it’s not such a rush to get there!

Day 3 was mostly a reflection day, followed by a lunch and awards ceremony. We spend the morning reflecting on the things we had learned, and were able to travel to other rooms to see what had been generated. We basically were split into elementary, secondary, or admin groups, and in each room were bits of chart paper with headings. I actually was disappointed to see this, as George had mentioned the dreaded chart paper in his presentation. I posted a picture on Twitter, and was called out on it:

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I was happy to respond. Chart paper is always used to gather ideas, but is never used further than that. Often, it’s just tossed in the trash. The point of the paper in this case was to gather our ideas on what we had learned on different topics. It would then be typed into a list and shared on the Copenhaver website. This list would give no further ideas or details. There was no examples to go with it to show how or why this learning was relevant. It is an outdated mode of learning. Instead, why not show this learning in a video, a tweet, or other fashion and then link to that instead? It’s just a list, nothing more. What will you do with the information on the list? That’s what really counts.

Finally, there was the dinner and awards ceremony, which was nice. I did try asparagus soup for the first time in my life. And I won a nice prize as well, which never happens. At this point though, I was ready to head home (or to my parents to visit, in this case) and let the things I had learned marinate inside my head.

Copenhaver was definitely a blast, and I learned a lot. I’m so glad to have had the chance to hear Burgess and Couros speak, and to have met up with some amazing educators. This is exactly the kind of workshop I live for!