Monday, September 28, 2015

BEST. HACK. EVER! Thank you, Nicholas Cage! #GAFE #Chrome

Pin It Last week a BHS student brought me his chromebook and he was VERY frustrated that he had been hacked and/or thought he had a "virus."  On his screen, I saw something similar to this...

The student did a Google Images search for "food" for his culinary arts class.  However, suddenly all of the pictures in the search results were replaced with pictures of Nicholas Cage.

I have to confess ... I cracked up laughing.  I LOVE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS!  (Disclaimer: No, I do not condone hacking!  I just thought this was clever!)  Turns out, the student had left his chromebook unattended and a fellow classmate played a little trick on him.  After a quick Google search, I found an article about this Google Chrome extension...

I showed the student how to find his extensions and delete the extension in question.  :)  I also informed our Tech Dept.  Another confession, I immediately started thinking "Who can I do this to?!"  If I am thinking that, then we probably have students thinking the same thing.  

After sharing this little gem with my Techs4Tex family, my pal Mike Wallace found this Chrome extension that adds a mustache to all of the faces in your browser.  :)

Useless.  Harmless.  Endless fun.  Kids ... don't try this at home.  :)  Unless it's April Fool's Day!!!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Check out @lucidpress - an online design and publishing tool you don't want to miss! #GAFE #EdTech #BISDwired

Pin It

Lucidpress is an online design and publication tool that’s free for students and teachers. Here are just a few classroom materials that can be produced in Lucidpress:
  • Assignments 
  • Multimedia study aids
  • Syllabuses
  • Lesson plans
  • Magazines and newsletters
Fortunately, the interface is simple (just drag and drop) and there are plenty of templates, so there’s virtually no learning curve.

So far, we’ve seen lots of students creating presentation and posters to show off what they’re learning. Lucidpress is especially suited to team projects, since multiple users can edit a document together in real time or leave comments for others to see.

After a Lucidpress document is finished, it needn’t be displayed once and then forgotten. Since Lucidpress is cloud-based, it supports digital publication and sharing. That means you can embed your document in a website, promote it on social media, or create a unique, permanent link so anyone can refer to it.

A new Lucidpress Edu Premium option will include Google Classroom integration, administrative controls, and digital portfolio creation. If you’re an educator, you can try Lucidpress for free just for signing up!

Guest post by Eliza Wright, Manager of Online Marketing, Lucid Software, Inc.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Why Audible is my new favorite app and should be yours, too!! @audible_com

Pin It I have loved reading for as long as I can remember.  I come from a family of readers.  When I was little, we would always stop at a book store before heading out on a road trip.  The whole family would get new books and my sister and I would read all the way there and all the way back.  I've been known to stay up all hours to finish the last tasty morsels of books like Tuesdays with Morrie, Educating Esme, Harry Potter and even Twilight.  :)

When my first son was born 6 years ago, I managed to still carve out time for hobbies and reading.  However, when my second son was born almost 4 years ago, that all came to a screeching halt.  Two kids is MUCH more work than one and our youngest was a sickly little thing to make matters worse.  For 2 years straight, I didn't read a single book.  Not.  One.  Book.  At night, I fell straight into bed and most free time was spent on domestic duties.

But then everything changed.  I desperately wanted to read a book recommended by several friends, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.  I learned about Audible and, despite my slight aversion to audiobooks (I was still a firm believer in turning a page!), I decided to try it out.  I walk or run almost every night and decided to give the audiobook a try in lieu of listening to music.  While I LOVED the book, I'll be honest ... listening to a book took a little getting used to.  In fact, I didn't get another audio book after that for almost a year.

Last year, however, a lot of traveling and another recommendation from a friend (Yes Please by Amy Poehler) had me going back to my Audible app.  Something clicked and I have been completely hooked ever since!  I have "read" more books in the last 6 months than the last 6 years!  I even went so far as to sign up for an Audible monthly membership so I can get a new book each month.  Confession ... I am buying extra credits because I am mowing through books!
If you're like me and love to read, but have trouble finding the time to turn pages, I would encourage you to check out Audible.  I don't get any sort of kick back here, I just want to share the literacy love!  :)  Click here to try Audible for 30 days and you can even get a free audiobook!  Each time you get in the car or go for a walk or hop on a bus or a train or a plane, you have an opportunity to enjoy a good book.

Need some ideas to get started?!  This list that I found on Pinterest really got me excited and I have loved every one of the books so far!  Happy listening and I would love to know what your favorite audiobook is!

Monday, August 31, 2015

A new take on the same ol' AUP spiel thanks to some help from my pal @edtech2love! #GAFE #chromebooks #BISDwired

Pin It At the start of each year, teachers who have chromebooks ask me to come in and talk to their students about AUP and Chromebook use.  It's such a BORING spiel and I get tired of finger pointing and fussing at the kids ... telling them what they can and cannot do.  Because I am assigned to a high school campus, the reality is that these kids know right from wrong.  They know the AUP.  They know the student code of conduct.  And they know the device pledge.  So we might as well mix it up and have some fun!

Last year I cut the AUP statements into strips and had the kids work in small groups to come up with a hashtag that would convey the message in their statement.  That was quick and fun and easy, but I have a lot of the same kids this year and didn't want to bore them with the same activity.

I started researching design thinking activities and was trying to come up with a fresh idea when it occurred to me that I could go to my former-colleague-turned-boss, +Kim Strauss  (who is very creative) and pick her brain.  She had a great idea to get the kids to make AUP BUMPER STICKERS!  So off to Wal-Mart I went to buy stickers sheets and markers!  I also designed a short preso to accompany the activity and tried to structure it like a mini PBL ...

The activity was great!  I had fun ... I think the kids had fun (although it's sometimes hard to tell with high schoolers) ... and I was excited about what they created.  Here's a glimpse of the bumper stickers from the first group ...

Do you have any favorite AUP or Chromebooks 101 activities that you like to use?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!  I'll likely have to mix it up again next year, so I might as well start collecting ideas now!  Happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Early am step-by-step #autoCrat instructions for my mom @PhysicsFarmer (with help from TechSmith @Snagit @googlechrome extension!) #GAFE

Pin It I am an early bird.  I get my best work done before 6am.  The flip side of that is I am in bed sometimes before the sun goes down.  (Don't judge!)  Last night I missed a text thread between my mom and sister about autoCrat and how to do it.  Seeing the texts early this morning put me into action.  I quickly opened up a sample Google Sheet with responses from a form I used at a training session a while back and went to work "cooking" some animated gifs with the help of the AMAZING TechSmith Snagit extension for Chrome.  (This is HANDS DOWN my new favorite way to create quick demos to help teachers ... and my mom!)

Here's a quick step-by-step instruction doc with animated gifs that will walk you through setting up autoCrat in an existing Response Sheet.  This is a great tool and if you're not already using it, you should be!!!

Hope this is a helpful doc on this Wednesday morning!  Happy merging!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Are you a new Instructional Technology Specialist or Instructional Coach? Here's my #1 tip for you this year...

Pin It First of all, welcome back to a BRAND NEW YEAR ... a FRESH START ... a DO-OVER!  I hope you had a wonderful summer and that you are ready to get back in the saddle again.........  :)  I have been back at work for 2 weeks now and the cobwebs are finally cleared and my head is back in the game.  I hope you all have an AMAZING year and that we can continue to learn together!

If you are a new Instructional Technology Specialist this year, I have some advice for you.  I was thinking about this on the way to work this morning...

Make your own quote at!

When I was newly out of the classroom and in my first ITS role, I don't think I did this.  I think I was so fired up with ideas and knowledge and tips and tricks and I just started force feeding it to anyone who would listen (and even some who didn't!).  Over the years, I have found that teachers want to TALK.  They want us to LISTEN.  And when we can find an organic place to interject an idea or tip or trick, then it feels natural and not contrived.

I challenge you to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with your teachers FIRST.  Ask about their kids, their summer, their new car, their new shoes ... and really listen when they talk.  Give them your FULL attention and follow-up on the personal things.  THEN you can start asking them about their classroom needs and how you can help.  If they trust you on a personal level first, then they will trust you on a professional level, as well.

If you ever need to bounce ideas or brainstorm or troubleshoot or visit ... feel free to give me a shout!  #togetherwerebetter  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Culture of Busy ... how to break the habit of saying thing like "I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off."

Pin It "I'm up to my eyeballs."

"I'm in the weeds."

"I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off."

"Just trying to keep my head above water."

We are likely all guilty of saying comments like the ones above ... but WHY?!  In the last few weeks I have really been paying attention to how I speak to my teachers and colleagues and how I respond to emails.  I recently found myself getting caught up in the "culture of busy."  As my friend +Jessica Powell explained, there are times when we are worried that if we don't TALK about how busy we are, people around us will think we're not working hard.  I think she's exactly right.  But here's a revelation I had about 3 weeks ago...

I was picking up my youngest son from daycare and a teacher from one of my former campuses told me that she missed seeing me and shared a conversation between herself and my old teacher's assistant.  The TA told her that "No matter how busy I knew Jessica was, she always turned away from her computer and gave me her full attention when I came in to talk to her."  Wow.  I nearly cried because I knew that lately I had been slipping farther and farther away from the "culture of caring" into the "culture of busy."

I realized that my boss, +Kim Strauss, was the one who modeled the "culture of caring" for me.  No one would ever deny that Kim, Director of Technology for Brenham ISD, is maybe one of the busiest staff members in our district.  Keeping thousands of devices and programs running smoothly all day every day is a CHALLENGE.  However, I don't think I have ever seen Kim frazzled or "running around like a chicken with her head cut off."  She's calm and cool and collected and she, too, will turn away from her task at hand to give you her full attention when you walk in her office - no matter how "in the weeds" she is.  Kim would never tell you how busy she is.  I think that's a pretty darn impressive leadership skill.

So, I started really paying attend to how many times a day I tell someone how busy I am.  I WAS EMBARRASSED that not only do I TELL people, I include it in my EMAILS!  This self-study has led me to compose and delete several emails over the last week or so.  I have stopped typing things like "I am so sorry I have taken so long to respond.  I have been so busy.  I'll have to check my calendar to see when we can get together." and started typing things like "Good morning!  I am happy to help you solve that problem.  When is a good time to meet?"  When someone walks in my office, I am returning to the practice of CLOSING MY LAPTOP and giving them my full attention.  The person in front of me who needs me is more pressing than words on a screen.  In addition, I am really trying to remove "culture of busy" statements from my verbal interactions with others.  NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW HOW BUSY I AM!  It's obnoxious!  EVERYONE is busy!  I'm not the only one!

Now...I have to add a disclaimer here.  We all have inner circles...spouses and colleagues and siblings and friends...who allow us to let the guard down and have a share fest (to put it nicely!).  My sweet husband patiently listens to me recount my "crazy day" so I can delete it from my brain and move on.  But really, they are the only ones who need to hear it.  Our everyday encounters don't need to be filled with a ... busy pissing contest ... for lack of a better way to put it.  And CERTAINLY the people who work FOR you don't need to know how busy you are.  IMHO.

So, I challenge you.  Do a self-study on how many times you make "culture of busy" statements and try to go a week without them.  I think you will be shocked to find how much nicer it is to eliminate those statements and ALSO how obnoxious it is when others around you use them.  (Hope that's not too harsh!)  Let's all appreciate that in our field, we are ALWAYS going to be busy.  It's a given.  This is a service industry.  Let's just focus on the serving and not get caught up in trying to out-serve!