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!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Using the Table of Contents feature in #Google Docs in 5 easy steps! So cool, so simple, so underutilized! #GAFE

Pin It For those of you who don't know me, I am a highly organized (somewhat OCD!) person and I thrive on systems and structures like a Table of Contents.  Last year I began putting together an "Event Planning Kit" for the Texas Google Summit that Techs4Tex produces each year, much to the entertainment of my Techs4Tex family.  (They all know about my OCD tendencies and love me despite my control issues.)  As I started building this kit, I happened across the Google Docs Table of Contents feature.  I knew this feature was there ... I had heard of it and even seen it in my menu ... but I had never actually used it.

Y'all.  IT'S COOL!  And easy to use!  And fancy!  And makes your Google Docs SO MUCH MORE user-friendly!  Here's how you do it in 5 easy steps...
  1. Create a doc or start with one you already have that has distinct sections.  (Ex: Chapter 1 or Objectives or 4-6 Months Out...)
  2. Insert a new page at the beginning of your document where your Table of Contents will live.  This will likely be after a header page.
  3. On your new blank page, go to Insert > Table of Contents.  This will insert a field where your Table of Contents will magically appear.  (Ok, not really magically, but it is Googley and that's pretty much the same thing!)
  4. Scroll to the heading for your first section, highlight it, and change the style of text to Heading 1.  (This may change the look of your heading text a little bit.)
  5. Now go back to the Table of Contents field on the new page you created and click the little refresh button in the bottom right corner.  VOILA!  Your heading as a link to that section will appear!  
Repeat steps 4-5 until all of your headings are formatted and in the Table of Contents.  Best part ... you can stick a new heading in anywhere and it will automatically show up in the correct order in your Table of Contents!

In case you are more a visual person, here are some helpful step-by-step animations...

Here are some ways I think this feature could be useful ... what are your thoughts?
  • Digital version of student handbook
  • Student end-of-year project (as shown above)
  • Department directory
  • Lesson planning (units or six weeks)
  • Classroom library (genre)

Friday, April 10, 2015

@Lucidpress: an online alternative to Microsoft Publisher #GAFE #edtech

Pin It Having students publish their work can help them take pride in their success while developing valuable design and presentation skills. But existing publication software options are slim—and Microsoft Publisher isn’t always friendly to new users. Lucidpress, an online publishing application free to educators, deserves some serious consideration as a viable Publisher alternative. Here’s how it stacks up next to Publisher on a few key issues:

Price - whereas a Publisher license costs about $100, and requires additional payment for each new version, Lucidpress is completely free to educators (non-educational users pay $16/month for comparable features).

Installation and upgrading - Lucidpress runs in a browser, so you never have to download updates. However, it’s only as fast as your Internet connection, whereas Publisher, which must be downloaded, can also run offline.

Ease of use - Lucidpress features an intuitive drag and drop interface, whereas Publisher, while powerful, has a more substantial learning curve.

Templates - While Publisher has many more templates than Lucidpress, most of them are outdated. Each of Lucidpress’s hundred or so templates has been professionally designed to appeal to today’s audience, making this a question of quantity versus quality.

Publication options - Both have a variety of export options, such as PDF and PNG, but Lucidpress also features the ability to publish as a web page with a unique URL and to embed videos in, for instance, a digital newsletter.

Collaboration - while Publisher offers easy sharing options and saves files to the cloud by default, Lucidpress allows for real-time collaboration and chatting, making it perfect for group projects.
How to get started

Getting started is easy with Lucidpress for education. Simply register for a free account using your educational email address, then request the educational upgrade for additional features. With Lucidpress, you can teach lessons that students will never forget.

To learn more, check out Lucidpress on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Jacob Shumway is a content writer for Lucidpress. Having recently studied English at BYU, he appreciates the power of visual communication in education firsthand.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

7 favorite random, creative #Chromebook friendly sites for kids to use when they finish work or need a break! #GAFE #edtech

Pin It

Sometimes you have students who finish work early or perhaps need a brain break.  These sites are kid (and teacher!) approved AND chromebook friendly.  They are creative.  They are interesting. They will give your kiddos (and even you!) a little bit of quick fun to break up our hectic days!

P. S. My personal favorites are #1 and #5!  :)
  1. Flabby Physics
  2. This Is Sand
  3. Bomomo
  4. Draw a Stickman
  5. Drum Kit
  6. GeoGuessr
  7. Flappy Code

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Different strokes for different folks ... Different data for different sheets ... How #Google Sheets + IMPORTRANGE function solved a BIG PROBLEM for us! #GAFE

Pin It
Soooo, you know how you have those days that are really crummy and hard to survive? WASN'T one of those days!  Today was an AMAZING day!  Today, after hours...DAYS...of searching and Tweeting and Googling and testing, I finally solved a solution to a long time problem in our district with the help of GAFE and the IMPORTRANGE function!  YEEHAW!

Here was the problem...

For years our HR Assistant has maintained multiple Excel spreadsheets for multiple departments/groups.  She and the HR Director, of course, have access to the sheet with ALL of the data, including sensitive information like salary.  However, the Technology Department, for example, needs to know who is hired, who is leaving, who is replacing and so forth to collect and issue equipment, but, we don't need to know salaries.  :)

Now, why do we do this?  Because it's what we've always done.  (I know you know that story!)  But with the hiring of a new HR Director comes new questions and new problems and the brainstorming of new solutions.  YEAH!

Here is our solution...

  • We created a new Google Form (in place of our old Personnel Recommendation Form) to be filled out by administrators.
  • The responses sheet from this form is only shared with the HR Assistant and the HR Director.
  • Side note: we set up Autocrat to create and email a printable version of this form to both the Assistant and Director for workflow purposes.
  • In the responses sheet, which really has more info that HR Assistant needs for her workflow, I created a new tab (sheet) for only the info she needs.  I used a function that looks something like this to pull data from the Form Responses tab.   ='Form Responses 1'!AF3
  • Then, I created a totally separate sheet for the Technology Department and used the IMPORTRANGE function to pull ONLY CERTAIN DATA from the HR sheet.  
Now, are we the first people to ever think of this?!  Nope.  Are there 100 other ways to probably do it?!  Yep.  Do I care?!  Nope.  :)  I think this is going to work for us with minimal work and minimal training, which is a win win in my book!

The short video below will give you a visual overview of the process, which probably needs to be tweaked a little and fine-tuned, but I definitely think we're on to something.  :)  All in all ... not a bad day!  If you would like help setting this up or are doing something similar, I'd love to hear from you!