My Favorite Chrome Extensions

I love Google Chrome. Now that most of the staff in Shakopee Public Schools are using it, I thought I would provide a few reasons why I think it is the best browser available today. There are apps and extensions you can add to Chrome to make navigating the Internet easier and there are some pretty awesome tools too!

If you were to go to the Chrome Web Store, you can easily search and add apps. Apps are basically simple bookmarks that are displayed when you clicked the “Apps” button in the upper-left corner of your screen.

Extensions are where the magic is at. Here is a list of my favorite extensions:

Awesome Screenshot – allows you to create a screenshot in Chrome, annotate it with text and circles, then copy and paste it into an email or slideshow.

Readability – converts a webpage into a more readable view. Much easier to print or show the article to the class!

dotEPUB – in one click, you can create an EPUB file from a webpage and then students can use it in iBooks on their iPad or iPhone.

Adblock – blocks… ads? Especially the start of YouTube clips.

Toggle Comments – Lots of NSFW comments are on YouTube. This allows you to hide them.

OneTab – Ever have like 15 tabs open? Click OneTab and you condense them to one. Speeds up your computer performance!

1 click timer – nice little timer that shows up on your screen

WatchDoc – WatchDoc alerts you if a Google Doc you shared or was shared with you has been edited.

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Amazing iPad App

I usually don’t go out of my way to review iPad apps, as there are so many website that do just that. But as it is a strong possibility that my school will be 1:1 with iPads next year, I thought it would be good to share an app that I feel has tons of potential and really is perfect for a 1:1 environment. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is essential.

TouchCast is an app that allows you or your students to create interactive videos for flipping your classroom or as a presentation of information. Sound familiar? Well TouchCast does just about everything that other similar apps do and it is completely free! The best part is that it is not just a static video, but something you can click on and interact with in meaningful ways. TouchCast allows you to place small virtual apps that are placed in your videos and add interactive elements. CLICK HERE to download the app for iPad.

Here are a list of the features that I absolutely love:

-Record your video using either camera on your iPad and apply filters to the video, such as black and white.

-There is an option for using a whiteboard (similar to Educreations, Screen Chomp, etc.) as you record your video.

-There is a teleprompter feature within the app so you can type up what you are going to say and then read it back while recording. I put the teleprompter on the side of the iPad with the front-facing camera so I am actually looking into the lense.

-Easily insert a background using the green screen feature. With some green butcher paper and good lighting, you can create an image just like the one below.

-There are themes, such as the Breaking News one, that automatically add some nice little virtual apps to your TouchCast.

-Students can answer multiple-choice questions within the TouchCast and receive immediate feedback on whether they answered it correctly. They also can submit responses to survey questions and see the percent of people who picked each response while watching the TouchCast.

-Every user on TouchCast has a channel. Your students can follow your channel and see all your updates. And if your students don’t have iPads available, you can upload your TouchCasts to YouTube easily, though interactive elements are not usable on YouTube.

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One iPad Classroom Ideas

Next year, I will have a school-issued iPad and an Apple TV so that I can wirelessly project my iPad onto my SMART board. In preparation for a 1:1 initiative, I know that this will be a great time to test apps and ideas on smaller groups of students and make this year a great year!

using-the-ipad-2i41r9qPhoto by Barbara Day via Flickr

Here are a few ideas on how to utilize one iPad in your classroom:

1.) Presentations! Show off your cool presentations you have made using cool tools such as Prezi, Haiku Deck, Keynote, etc.I like using Prezi with my Apple TV because it seamlessly plays YouTube clips and allows you to pan and zoom around using the iPad’s touch screen.

2.) Set up a wireless desktop app (such as Splashtop 2) so you can wirelessly control your computer through your iPad screen. This could allow you to write out math problems, circle key information, etc.

3.) Showcase student work. Have students create work on their desks, in their notebooks, on small whiteboards, etc. and then take picture of their work. You could then project those pictures to the class so everyone can see what is written on their work. You could import these pictures into apps such as educreations and highlight or annotate it in some way.

4.) Make it one of many stations. It may be scary, but students will treat your iPad with respect. Create 6-8 stations for your class and have one of them be at your SMART board and one of them at your iPad. Examples of an iPad station could be watching a youtube clip and answering discussion questions, playing Jeopardy (create it free here), or reviewing vocabulary using Quizlet (a free iphone app).

5.) Record a video. You could record students giving a speech (privately or publicly), record a play they create, or record a video that you create for them. Other teachers have been using their iPads to create videos to “flip their classroom” and have students watch their lectures or lessons from home so they can use

6.) Sock Puppets? Have students plan out and then create a dialogue or story using any of the following apps: Toontastic, PuppetPals, or my personal favorite – Sock Puppets. I made a dialogue between two puppets that showed different conflict resolutions methods for health class. The students were sent in the hall with their small group in order to record them.

7.) Classroom Management. I used an app called Class Dojo over the past year. While I started it late and didn’t use it much after semester 1, it was a really cool site/app! You can upload a list of your students, customize negative and positive behaviors you will document during class, and then share this data with students and parents. I also used it to randomly call on students to answer questions daily. Sometimes, I would give a “difficult student” the iPad to be in charge of randomly calling on students and then they would document if students got it right or wrong. I might need to make an entire blog entry on this site! Go here for more info.

Here is a video done by Modern Lessons that has some more ideas:

Creating Multimedia Timelines

During our Middle East Unit, I asked students to create a timeline about one of four possible events: the Isreal-Palestine Conflict, Iraq War, Afghanistan War, or Arab Spring. Students were given time in the computer lab for research and then they moved on to creating their timelines.

My favorite website of all the timeline sites out there was dipity.com. It was intuitive and had a lot of features. For each date, you can add a picture (uploaded or URL), video URL, event description, location (which links it to google maps), and a link for more information which students used to cite their sources. And students can share their timelines and allow other users to contribute to them.

Unfortunately, the weekend before the due date, dipity.com experiences a lot of issues. The homepage had a meme timeline that would show up in the place of student’s timelines when they logged in. I received a screen shot from a parent that showed inappropriate images that were posted on the meme timeline. Even after the site was back up, many students were having difficulty adding events to their already created timelines. Many then switched to timetoast.com, capzles.com, or xtimeline.com.

It was a great project which would have been even better without the technical issues.

Student Accounts

As I search the web, I find these really cool websites that I want to try with my students. Thinglink, dipity, voicethread, findery… Those are just a few I’ve looked at over the last week. Of course it would be easier to try to implement these project ideas if I had 1:1 with chromebooks or something of that nature, but I digress.

I’m wondering how students will be able to show off their products with these sites, how I will grade them, and how are they going to keep their passwords straight!? They can’t even remember their gmail account passwords!

I look forward to showing off how my students use cool web tools. Now if only MCA testing didn’t take over the computer labs for the next few weeks…