Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gadgets to Start the New School Year

Are you getting ready for a new school year? Perhaps you're setting up your classroom or office. Maybe you are thinking of lessons and activities for your students. 

If you are like me, you might be considering purchasing a few gadgets to start the new year. Here are a few of my recent purchases.

one, two, three, four

1.  Earlier this summer I was driving on my way to a Google training and needed to stop for gas. And what do I find right by the check out? A selfie stick. I just had to have it. And let me just say, it has been so much fun.  Look for a blog post on selfie sticks very soon! I paid $11.99. 

2.  I have a 45 minute commute to work each day, and the traffic can get a bit hairy. This cell phone car mount is perfect for keeping me updated without taking my eyes off of the road. I've been using this for about a week and I'm really happy with it. The suction cup sticks well to my textured dashboard and the cell phone does not move or shift while driving. I can easily attach or remove my phone and it fits great even with my phone in the case. And I can still charge my phone while it's in the car mount. This picture was taken in my actual car. I paid $14.99.

3.  A wireless bluetooth speaker   at home is a must for me. We use the speaker all of the time out on our porch or patio. I decided to get a wireless speaker for at school for playing music in a classroom, using the speaker in a conference call on my cell phone or projecting audio from my computer.  I decided on a Soundbot, mainly because of the great reviews and the affordable price. We've been using this speaker outside by our fire pit and also at the ball park. I'm super impressed with the sound quality and ability to project outdoors. I paid $26.99. 

4.  Lighting is very important to help create a comfortable, well lit environment. I haven't purchased a desk led lamp yet, but I'm considering this one for $39.99. The features look really nice:

I'm still debating this purchase, but I definitely plan to have some form of good lighting at my desk this year.

Bonus: Although this is not a gadget, my son and I created a baseball hat rack in our garage to help organize the 60+ hats that we have lying around. I love organizing and cleaning up the house before we go back to school. This hat rack makes me happy because I know that my sons will be able to find their hats easily in the morning and after school. 

Are there any gadgets you're considering purchasing before the start of the school year? If so, please share. So far, I really like the choices I've made with a selfie stick, cell phone car mount and bluetooth wireless speaker.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Best Google Docs Tips and Tricks

In this Chat with Deb, I've put together a series of short videos highlighting 10 Google Doc Tips and Tricks that you may not know about.  I'm pretty sure you will thank me after you have watched the videos.  These tips and tricks are some of my favorites.

Intro and Tip #1 - Web Clipboard

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #2 - The Paint Roller

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #3 - Page Setup

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #4 - Emojis

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #5 - Math Equation Tool Bar

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #6 - Speech Recognition

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #7 - Tag Cloud Generator 
#8 - Texthelp Study Skills Add-on

Click here the for Google Doc.

Tip #9 - Publish to the Web
#10 - Personal Dictionary

Click here the for Google Doc.

Do you have a favorite tip or trick with Google Docs? I would love it if you shared with us.  Thanks for watching this Chat with Deb series.
Thank you to Intel's Teachers Engage for sponsoring this blog post.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Have You Heard of or Tried These?

I am thinking about ordering a Google Cardboard Viewer.  With the Makerspace movement growing and knowing how much our high school students enjoyed the Makerspaces that we introduced last year, I'm thinking this could be a winner and quite popular with our students. I especially like the fact that there are many  Google Cardboard Apps to download and try with the viewer.  My only concern is that I am known for having motion sickness and would probably suffer through out one of the roller coaster rides.

Who doesn't love earning something for their accomplishments? I really want to try this activity to Gamify Your PD from Alice Keeler. After playing with the Google spreadsheet a bit and practicing with myself as a student, I found it quite easy to use and I really think this could be beneficial to teachers, coaches and students. Bring on the badges!

I am not an artist, however, I do love to doodle and play with words. I'm seriously thinking that I would like to learn how to make Sketchnotes and model this in some classrooms for teachers and students.  I'm pretty sure I could learn from any of these YouTube videos.

My favorite new addiction is  Extensis in Google Fonts. I'm a font person. Your font says a lot about you and I really enjoy playing with new fonts. Again, the sketchnotes and drawing fancy letters is right up my alley. Have you checked out the awesome new choices for fonts in Google Docs? I spent way too much time adding new fonts to my list - it is truly addicting!

Have you tried any of these? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you have something new to share that others may be interested in?  Let us know.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Read Write Think - Enhance Digital Literacy

Let's think about Literacy in a Digital World

Free literacy resources and high-quality online activities to help students respond to literature. 

What I love about RWT:
  • Save your work as a RWT file and open it at a later time.
  • Student choice is built into many of the activities
  • How to videos are available 
  • Search by learning objective - Start with the goal in mind
  • Free Printables 

Thank you to Intel's Teachers Engage for sponsoring this Chat with Deb.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My Most Used and Favorite Apps

Pinterest - Seriously, I use this for so many different interests in my life. Healthy recipes that I want to try and healthy recipes that I have tried. Storytelling apps, Sphero, and a few of my favorite tech people: here and here.  I can always find some great inspiration to keep me busy in the Pinterest App.

Evernote - My days would not be as organized and put together without this app. It works seamlessly on all of my devices. Whether I'm saving content from the web or making my grocery list, this app is a life saver. The ability to record an audio note is awesome. And I love the Web Clipper Extension!

Audible - I have a 45 minute commute to and from work each day and I also travel a lot in the summer. Need I say more?
Here are a few of the books I've enjoyed over the past year:
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult
A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
The Silent Sister - Diane Chamberlain
The Forgotten Girl - David Bell
I definitely read more for enjoyment than anything else.

WeatherBug - I live in Wisconsin. The weather is unpredictable and crazy. I've been caught in either rain, snow, hail or ice too many times to not be prepared!!! This is the first app I will open every morning on my iPhone.

My Fitness Pal - This is what I use to track my food diary and calories each meal of the day. I also record my weight daily on this app.  If I'm at the grocery store I can quickly scan the bar code on a product and see the nutritional label. I can also look up the nutrition for food at restaurants if I happen to be out to eat. If I were to exercise I could keep track of that also. :-)

Yelp - This app quickly helps me to find local businesses for shopping, gas, food, hotels and so much more. I can see reviews from others and also see if any of my friends have been to the businesses.  If you are doing any traveling, I highly recommend Yelp!

Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram Oh My!  - I have many friends and family and we like to stay in touch. Social media is my home away from home and I love spending time on each of these apps.

I dare not leave out Voxer for sending audio messages to my colleagues when I am not able to text, Pacer for tracking my steps each day, Google Play Music and Pandora for listening to my favorite songs and Google Photos for saving all of my pictures to the cloud.

I love discovering new apps too. Do you have a favorite app to share?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

#ISTE2015 Takeaways

This is the first year in many years that I was #NotAtISTE15 

I will admit that I missed going and wish I could have found the funds to go. I'm going to begin saving now for #ISTE16 in Denver. This is just too valuable of a tech conference to miss.

Regardless of my absence, I would like to share a few finds that I bookmarked from following the #ISTE2015 hashtag for just 15 minutes this morning:

#1 Gynzy

Having just finished a two day SMART Notebook Training, I was pleased to find this fantastic resource for use on Interactive Whiteboards.  Gynzy is packed with fun tools and activities for grades K-8. Create lessons and add media to your lessons.  After playing with Gynzy for a short time I was pleased with the simplicity and helpful tutorials.  

This video is an amazing example of the Elizabeth Forward School District bringing new learning spaces to their schools and the incredible impact that it is having on student attendance and learning. This video is so inspiring and reminds us of the necessity of updating our schools which have stayed the same for far too long.

Alice Keeler shared her Google Spreadsheet for personalizing a rubric and running an add-on script to make a copy for each student on your roster. The copies of the rubric automatically appear as individual tabs on the spreadsheet with the students' names on the tabs. Alice also shared the steps for using this Rubric Template to easily share the rubric with students in Google Classroom.  I tried out the spreadsheet as was very impressed with the possibilities of its use in the classroom!  

Another great share out from Alice Keeler was The Tile App.  This fabulous app lets a person find any object that they have attached a "tile" to. Alice uses this for her luggage when traveling.  The best way for me to learn about the Tile App was to watch this video:

The only thing holding me back is the cost of the tiles / 4 of them cost $70.  I'm not sure I can justify that expense.

#4 Emojis on a Mac

I love my Mac and I'm always looking for new tips and tricks to use the device to its full capacity. This is a simple tip to open emojis quickly on a mac. Simply use the key combo: Control + Command + Spacebar and you too can type things like this:

#5 Quotes from Ed Tech Leaders

What I really love about ISTE are all of the positive and inspiring thoughts from the attendees. So many great words of advice.  

It's not surprising that the overall themes of ISTE2015 showing up in these quotes are what I believe is at the heart of education today:
  • Don't just be a talker, be a doer and make things happen
  • Relationships and people matter the most
  • Students and learning should always be our focus
  • Be the best educator and person that you can be.
  • Be kind, considerate and a team player
Next year I will hopefully be attending ISTE2016 in Denver, CO.  In the meantime I will be spending a lot more time on Twitter sifting through the tweets from #ISTE2015.