Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chrome Apps, Extensions & Add-Ons: Another Round!

Minus the snow, a pretty accurate description of my days lately!
As of this writing, I have been on break for about a week and a half.  My last official day of work for 2016 was Friday, December 16.  I went into work on Monday, December 19 to work with my technology partner on completing an inventory of my school's Chromebooks (we have over 800 and the inventory lists were a mess!), but other than that, I have been somewhat "off the grid" for the past week or so.  I have kicked out a few tweets here and there promoting some upcoming events that CUE-NV is hosting (for me information and registration info, see my previous post here), listened to a few messages on Voxer (all of my Voxer friends must be off the grid too, it has been very quiet), but that is about it.  Like many people in education, I wanted/needed a brain break for a few days.  So instead of focusing on work, I have spent time with my family, my mother and sister came to visit for a few days, I took my 5-year-old daughter to see Rogue One (she fell asleep, but it gave me the opportunity to focus, and I thought it was an excellent film, I look forward to seeing it again before it leaves the theatre), and I have caught up on the DVR that continuously piles up during a typical work week.  However, that doesn't mean that I haven't had ideas or the itch to write during that time.

In the past few weeks, I have discovered some more great Google Chrome apps, extensions, and add-ons that have made my professional life easier.  I am sure that if you haven't used these tools before, you will find them to be just as amazing as I do!

If your account has been given
access to Team Drives, you will
see the option in your Drive like
in the image above.
Team Drives:  If you have a GSuite for Education account (formerly known as GAFE account) for your school and district, you may have seen this option appear in your Google Drive.  Essentially, Team Drives is an easier way to share and edit documents with a group of people.  The possibilities for employing Team Drives are endless!  I envision them to be used effectively for PLC teams, departments, grade levels, administrative teams, and so much more.  So how do Team Drives work?  A person creates a new Team Drive from their account and adds people to the Drive.  You can set different permissions for each person, from as little as view only to full access that allows people to add others, add files, edit files, and delete people and files from the Team Drive.   When somebody adds a file to the Team Drive, it automatically shares it with the other people within the Drive, NOT directly to their Google Drive.  All edits are in real time, just like a regularly shared Drive file.  If a person is removed from the Team Drive, they no longer have access to the files.  I have created a Team Drive for the technology team at my school to share all of our inventories and other technology related documents.  In addition, I created a Team Drive for my school's administrative team for easier access to documents like school/district policies, staff evaluation resources, sports schedules, and other files.  There are a few kinks that Google needs to work out, such as the ability to add an entire folder, rather than just files, but so far, Team Drives is a great new tool that will make the sharing and editing of files between individuals much easier.

Find both of these great add-ons in Google
Sheets by using the Get add-ons option 
Power Tools & Yet Another Mail Merge:  If you are like me, you used Google Sheets extensively.  You also need to communicate with your colleagues on a regular basis via email.  Two add-ons for Google Sheets, Power Tools, and Yet Another Mail Merge make using Sheets and communication more simplified.

Power Tools has numerous functions within the add-on that allows you to modify data within a sheet.  Some of the options include removing data (duplicates, extra spaces, blank rows/columns, etc.), clear data by type, change the formatting of numbers, split data into columns, and so much more.  I use the remove duplicate and remove blank rows function the most in my daily work.

Yet Another Mail Merge is a great way to send personalized emails to your colleagues.  Using data tags, the program will pull information from a spreadsheet, such as names, and insert it into an email draft that you create in your Gmail account.  You can send the email immediately or schedule it to be sent at a later time.  It even has a tracking function that allows you to see who has opened the message.  The free version of YAMM allows you to send to 50 recipients in 24 hours.  Since I communicate with about 150 people regularly, I spent $25 to buy the premium version for one year, which allows up to 1500 recipients in 24 hours.  I have yet to try it out, but you can also send personalized attachments to recipients through YAMM!

A QR code for my blog created using
The QR Code Extension.  
The QR Code Extension:  QR codes are a great way to differentiate instruction, share materials, and disseminate information easily.  The QR Code extension makes it easy to create a QR code for any web page!  The extension allows you to modify the QR code, even personalizing it with images (requires a third-party account, which is free).  Once you have created a QR code, you can modify the size of the code and download it as a .png file for placing in documents, presentations, websites, etc.

It even has a scanner embedded that allows users to scan QR codes using the webcam of a laptop, Chromebook, etc.  So instead of needing to use your smartphone or a tablet with a QR code scanning application, you can use the Chrome browser to scan a QR code!  Simply open the extension, select scan a code, and hold up a QR code to the webcam to scan it!

In closing, I can't help but take a moment to pay tribute to Carrie Fisher, who left us this morning (as of this writing).  Unlike many, or even most Star Wars fans, I did not become a fan until I was an adult.  I was never a big fan of science fiction growing up and my experience with the original trilogy as a kid was very limited.  I definitely did not see the prequel trilogy until recently.  However, I am definitely a full-on fan of the franchise (even the prequel trilogy, I don't think it deserves the relentlessly negative press that it gets; sure it's not as good as the originals, but what is?), my 5-year-old absolutely loves it, and I am working on my 20-month-old son.  Carrie and the rest of the cast of the 7 movies of the saga and Rogue One have definitely made an impact on me, my family, many of my friends, and society as a whole.  Not to mention her voicing of Angela on Family Guy is always good for a few laughs.  She will be missed and like too many other greats that passed on in 2016, she was taken way too soon.  As educators, we fight each day to revolutionize our craft and make our students and the world a better place.  Until next time, in honor of Princess Leia and the Star Wars franchise...

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

CUE-NV Events of 2017

Cookie Monster joined CUE and look at how
excited he is!  This could be you! 
2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year for CUE-NV.  As an organization, we are attempting to build our brand, recruit membership, and host more events for members and nonmembers alike (although, we hope that if you take the time out to attend one of our events, you should become a full-fledged member of the Dark Side; we have cookies, or CUEkies, right Jason Borgen?) Numerous events are already published and ready to go.  There is also the CUE National Conference in Palm Springs, various CUE Rockstar events, and Fall CUE events that are absolutely amazing.  I have attended each of those events before, and I can vouch for their awesomeness.  You will learn a ton and meet some amazing people, many of whom I consider good friends now.  So without further ado, I present to you, a schedule of CUE-NV events for the upcoming year!

CUE-NV Tech Fest
Where: Douglas High School, Minden, NV
When: Saturday, January 28, 2017
What: numerous presentations on innovation and technology with a keynote by CUE's own Jon Corippo.

Register now for $40 (if you are a CUE member, send an email to 21stcenturylearning@cue-nv.org for a promo code to save $20).  If you are interested in presenting, submit your proposal for a free registration!

Silver State Tech Innovator Symposiums
Where: Various locations in Las Vegas, Reno, and Carson City
When: February 25 (Las Vegas & Reno), March 11 (Carson City), March 25 (Las Vegas), April 22 (Las Vegas & Carson City), May 20 (Las Vegas & Reno)
What: A series of one-day tech events with a monthly focus: G Suite for Education (February), iPads & Chromebooks in Education (March), 21st Century Learning (April), Digital Literacy & Citizenship (May).

Please see the following links for registration.  Registration is only $15 for nonmembers, $10 for CUE members (be sure to complete the form on the registration page to request your $5 reimbursement.  CUE-NV is also looking for presenters for each event; your registration fee is waived if you submit a proposal that is accepted.  See links below for proposal submissions.  Carson City events are still in the planning stages; more information will be provided at a later time.  

Registration Links
February 25 (Las Vegas):  http://bit.ly/LasVegasSSTISFebruary
February 25 (Reno):   http://bit.ly/RenoSSTISFebruary
March 25 (Las Vegas):  http://bit.ly/LasVegasSSTISMarch
April 22 (Las Vegas):  http://bit.ly/LasVegasSSTISApril
May 20 (Las Vegas):  http://bit.ly/LasVegasSSTISMay
May 20 (Reno):  http://bit.ly/RenoSSTISMay

Proposal Submissions (indicate which location on the form)

Reno Spring Tech Camp
Where:  Damonte High School, Reno, NV
When: April 28-29, 2017
What: Two-day event featuring a keynote speaker, numerous presentations on innovation and educational technology, lunch, and a year membership to CUE

Register now for $89, with prices increasing to $99 on April 21.  Looking to present and having your registration fee waived?  Submit a proposal and if it is accepted, you will be able to attend for free! 

Where: Western High School, Las Vegas, NV
When: September 29-30, 2017
What: The largest annual event for CUE-NV, a two-day conference with keynote speakers, numerous innovation and educational technology sessions, CUESTEAMpunk Playground, vendors, breakfast, lunch, giveaways, and a year membership to CUE.  

Register now for the super early bird, super low price of $69 (only 46 tickets remain!) before prices increase to $89, $99, or $109.  The request for presenters will be made available at a later date.  

CUE-NV will also be hosting BeerCUE on Saturday, January 28.  The Northern Nevada event will be held after the CUE-NV Tech Fest at the Tail Dragger Cafe in Minden and Hennessey's Tavern in Las Vegas, with both events starting at 5:30.  A CUEHike is in the planning phases for May.  

As you can see, plenty of opportunities for professional learning, networking and building your PLN. If you have any questions, feel free to contact CUE-NV at 21stcenturylearning@cue-nv.org.  

Until next time...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hour of Code: Minute 61 & Beyond

What about your beyond Hour of Code?  What have you done in minute 61 and beyond?
This week has been a celebration of technology with the worldwide Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code.  Millions of students worldwide have participated in various activities to bring more attention to the importance of studying computer science and coding.  Earlier this week, I wrote a piece about the importance of computer science and coding and how, frankly, I was a coding idiot for several reasons.  I pledged to educate myself more in the wonderful world of coding, including signing the pledge on code.org.  I am proud to say that even though I did not participate in an official Hour of Code event, I definitely put in more than an hour of time this week to familiarize myself with coding and can honestly say that I was missing out all of this time.

Complete the quizzes, earn your badges, and get this bad boy!
Earlier this week, I completed the Apple Teacher certification in iPads and Mac.  Each part of the process involved eight short quizzes about Apple products, such as Keynote, Numbers, Pages, iMovie, Garageband, and others.  A search in iBooks or from appleteacher.apple.com will turn up study guides to assist you in preparing for the quizzes and earning your badges.  I found some of the quizzes, like Productivity, Creativity, and iMovie to be very easy, while Garageband and Keynote were much tougher.  This should come as a surprise to me, which it doesn't, as I have used iMovie much more than I have Garageband (to tell the truth, I honestly can't recall a time that I ever used Garageband).  An addition set of quizzes with more badges focused on Apple's Swift Playground.  These badges are going to have to wait as I will need to do some extensive study and practice.  

As for the Swift Playground app, I can't say enough good things about it.  Apple provides study guides that are available for iBooks and activities within the app that explain key vocabulary and outline easy to follow tasks to build coding skills.  A fun little avatar that walks around demonstrates whether or not your code is correct.  Over the course of a couple of hours, I went from knowing absolutely nothing about writing code to writing code that had my avatar walking around, jumping, and collecting gems.  I have also started looking at some other coding apps, such as ScratchJr., to build my skills.  Do yourself a favor and check out Swift Playground, if you haven't already.

My daughter will be getting this soon!
Weeks ago, I signed up for a training offered by my school district that was hosted by Apple, with a focus on STEM education.  While the training was designed more for science and STEM teachers, I signed up for it hoping to learn some skills that I would be able to share with teachers at my school in my coaching role.  What I got was way more than that.  Now, it probably was not a coincidence that this training was held during Computer Science Education Week.  Not everything presented focused on computer science, but there was a great deal of coding with Parrot, Sphero, Osmo, and the Swift Playground.  In addition, the session gave instruction on some great science-related apps, iBooks, and iTunesU.  I was able to bring a ton of great resources back for my teachers, and I improved my coding skills at the same time.  They are offering an English/Language Arts themed session with Apple in February; I am already signed up!

It was a good week! 
With a straight face, I can look you in the eye and say that I have done something beyond the Hour of Code.  I can say that I am no longer lower than a novice.  I can say that I am a novice coder moving very quickly toward something higher than that.  I will not be writing apps or building a new operating system to compete with Windows or Chrome OS anytime soon, but I am a lot further along than I was four days ago.  Hopefully, this has been a week in which you have improved your computer science and skills as well.  

Until next time... 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Computer Science & Coding: What does it mean to me?

The week of December 5-11 is recognized as Computer Science Education Week throughout the world.  Many organizations and schools have activities planned in celebration of CSE Week on a wide array of levels.  It is no secret that the future of the United States and the world is going to depend on computer science and coding.  The problem is that the world is millions of computer scientists short in fulfilling the jobs and careers that are available.  As educators, we need to do a better job of preparing students for the jobs of the future.  It is never too early to have students start planning for their future.  While it is typical that schools have career days and job shadowing experiences, most of these experiences do not happen until a student is in high school.  We need to start with kids as young as kindergarten in coding and computer science to prepare them for the future.  

A bit of a disclaimer: I am not a coding expert.  I am not a coding enthusiast.  In fact, my knowledge and skills in coding are below novice.  However, what I do know is how important it is that coding becomes more of a focus in our schools.  Not that it should be used as an excuse, and I don't fall back on this as a crutch, but I failed to see the importance of coding for a long time because I was a social studies teacher.  I didn't have computers in my classroom.  My curriculum was already hard enough to cover in 9 months, let alone bringing in more to cover.  Overall, my philosophy was, "How is coding going to apply to and help me teach my standards?"   It took me until the CUE Conference 2016 in Palm Springs to final start to realize that this was a misguided, misinformed, and detrimental point of view.  
Watch Hadi Partovi's TEDx talk here.

One of the keynote speakers at CUE 2016 was Hadi Partovi, a man that escaped the horrors of war in his birthland of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, came to the United States with his family, and founded numerous tech companies, including code.org.  His hour-long keynote highlighted his life, his education, and statistics on the present and future of the global economy in regards to computer science, females and underrepresented minorities in computer science, and why we must press politicians to take notice of the importance of computer science.  I left his speech, like many others probably did, inspired to make changes.  I went to a coding session later that day at the conference, and while I did not get much from it (the session was more of a "sit & get" on places you can go to get information; they were good resources, but I wanted to see action, not words), it inspired me to change my attitudes toward coding.  

Fast forward about nine months, and sadly, I am not much further along than where I was in March.  I could make excuses all day long, but I take full responsibility for not bettering myself as an educator by exploring more resources and learning more ways to incorporate coding into all subject areas, not just computers classes.  So today, December 5, 2016, I took a step forward to righting the ship by signing the diversity pledge on code.org, vowing that all students can code and should have the opportunity to learn to code.  It is my duty and responsibility to use the numerous resources that are available to educate myself about computer science and coding, and I vow to take advantage of those resources, which include:

Your PLN:  If you are reading this, there is a great chance you got the link from Twitter.  The people that you follow are a great resource of activities and information that can help you to build your computer science and coding skills.  A recent #tosachat Twitter chat highlighted coding, and while I was completely lost, I was able to glean tons of great resources and make connections with people that are much smarter than I.  

Computer Science Education Week:  Visit csde.org for great information on lessons, collaboration with educators around the world, and a blog that will provide you with a solid base to start your coding journey or to enhance what you are already doing.  

Code.org:  The gold standard of coding resources, it provides resources for students, parents, teachers, and works as an advocate for promoting computer science.  They also sponsor the Hour of Code, which will be happening in classrooms around the world throughout this week.  

Khan Academy:  "The YouTube of Education" (ok, I made that up, but that's essentially what it is), Khan Academy provides short videos on coding and computer science that you and your students can use to build your skills.  

You may not have computers in your classroom and you may not have strong skills, but you can still code with your students.  All of the above resources also provide activities that require no technology.  And because our students today are a part of the generation that doesn't know a world without computers and the Internet, by introducing them to computer science and coding, they'll be able to teach you a few things.  

The biggest thing:  now I have to take my own advice that I have provided here and do something about it.  Until next time... 

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Homestretch of 2016

Hard to believe, but 2016 is almost finished.  Thanksgiving has come and gone, which, unfortunately, was the least memorable and lamest Thanksgiving that I have ever had.  It started with what I thought was a cold the week before, turning into what I think was probably the flu with the aches, fever, chills, cough, the whole nine.  As the week of Thanksgiving started, I started to feel better, only to turn again on Thanksgiving and sleeping about 15 hours straight through dinner.  As much as I love the leftovers, I barely ate any of those because my desire to eat was nonexistent.  

Excitement abound! 
The year has been a crazy one (aren't they all, though?) in my personal and professional life, not to mention the economic, social, and political fabric of the United States and the world changing drastically with a great deal of uncertainty for 2017 ahead of us.  But, as one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Garth Algar from Wayne's World, once said, "LIVE IN THE NOW!" After spending most of Thanksgiving week under the weather, I am finally feeling better (just in time to give whatever sickness I had to my 5-year-old daughter, 19-month-old son, and wife), I got plenty of sleep (because I was sick), and SiriusXM hosted a week and a half of Mandatory Metallica to celebrate the release of their new album, which is absolutely amazing (Brian Briggs, did you pick it up yet?).  I am recharged and ready to rock the next three weeks of school to finish off the calendar year.  The beard is growing in, with a lot more grey than in years past, my hair is longer than it has been in, well, a year, since last No Shave November, and the last few weeks of 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting time, personally and professionally, for yours truly.

Bill Murray, aka, Pvt. Winger salutes you!
Recently, my school's Air Force ROTC program purchased 60 Chromebooks for use in their classes.  I spent some time with my tech partner and a couple of students enrolling the Chromebooks and building carts for the classes.  Now comes the million dollar question:  what do we do with these things?  I admire the ROTC department for their willingness to commit money to the technology and their curiosity in how they can best use their new devices.  Some teachers would get them and let them collect dust or use them as glorified worksheet machines.  The teachers from the ROTC department have already booked appointments to work with me on how to best utilize the tools that they now have.  And it also goes without saying that I admire the fine men and women of our ROTC department that have made military service their career and are now molding the next generation of leaders at our school.

Over the past few weeks, many teachers of my school have been working hard preparing for the Google Certified Educator, Level 1 exam.  I organized a three-hour training, with an additional three-hour block of time for the exam on Saturday, December 10 at my school.  Not only have teachers been incorporating more Google tools into their daily lessons and reviewing the modules provided by the Google for Education Training Center, they are going to be giving up a 6-hour block of one of their Saturdays to complete the training and testing.  To convince somebody to put in those kinds of hours, cough up $10 to pay for the exam and give up their Saturday takes quite a bit of convincing on the part of the organizer.  However, 25 teachers and staff are signed up, and I look forward to seeing each and every one of them receive their certification certificates.

One of the best things about working at a school that is trying to become more technologically savvy and innovative is helping teachers that already have great lessons and projects and how to flip them into something that is more digital in nature (SAMR, anyone?).  One such teacher wanted to take a small project that involves researching historical figures from providing a brief presentation of simple facts with a graphic to something much more exciting and visually appealing.  I provided her with a few ideas on how to achieve this, such as creating a hyperdoc or short videos.  In ten minutes, she turned her project into a video project using Adobe Spark where student groups would demonstrate their learning on a historical figure through graphics and short text, rather than long sentences/paragraphs, with voiceovers and music to accommodate the information.  The videos could then be posted by students to Google Classroom to share with their peers for learning and evaluative purposes.

We took our kids to Disneyland at the beginning of break;
 this is what it's like waiting in line at times! And waiting to
hear back on other things too... 
The next few days and weeks are full of potentially good news for me as a professional.  I am awaiting word on approval on several fronts.  I applied to be a presenter at CUE in Palm Springs in March.  My presentation will be non-traditional in nature in regards to your typical conference session in that it will be more of a roundtable discussion on how to bring tech laggers and tech resistors on board with a vision of expanding technology in a school.  I also applied to present several sessions at the EdTech Team's Carson City, NV GAFE Summit (is it still going to be called a GAFE Summit now that it is GSuite?).  And the one that I am most anticipating is my application for Google Certified Trainer that I submitted a few weeks back.  It's tough playing the whole "hurry up and wait" game, but the rewards are great if I can only be patient.  But it's so hard!

Lastly, while I enjoy many aspects of the December holiday season, it's not my favorite time of the year, for several reasons.  I don't enjoy how it becomes earlier and earlier every year (can we get through Halloween, Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving please?).  I don't enjoy how materialistic and corporate it has become.  I'm not religious, but in my opinion, it's gotten away from the religious, cultural, and family-oriented holiday that it once was.   And I also don't enjoy remembering spending a Christmas in the hospital when my grandmother was sick years ago.  I cherish the memories of her, just don't like being reminded of that one.  This year, for the first time since I moved to Nevada in 2005, I will actually be home.  Because I have always traveled during my time off in December, I have never bothered to decorate a tree or anything.  This year, we will buy a tree, decorate it, hang stockings, and the whole thing for the kids.  And of course, I will enjoy the things that I do like about the holiday, like watching Bad Santa, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, and Charlie Brown and hanging out with friends and family.  And of course, hockey is always on and college bowl season begins and barring the (probable) collapse of the Detroit Lions, playoff football in the Motor City.

The next few weeks will be a great ride, hopefully, your ride will be just as fun and jam-packed as mine.  Until next time...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

How we all felt as the campaign dragged
on, and on, and on!
Now that the dust has settled (slightly) on the 2016 election cycle, I feel that it is important to address what it means for educators and our students.  I am not putting this out as a platform for debate, mudslinging, and hatred that too much of the past year and a half has been about, this is more of a simple observation and hope for the future.  And I also write this as unbiased as I can be.  I enjoy politics (that are civil, based on facts, etc.) and I feel that our nation has the best system of government in the world.  Throughout the past few months, I have stayed on the sidelines for several reasons, mainly because I was very well set in my thoughts on the candidates and their views and I am not a fan of confrontation, especially when so much of the confrontation in this cycle was so negative and downright violent at times.  I normally do not share who I voted for, but for the sake of this post, I will open a door that is rarely opened.

I grew up in a family that was very Republican.  My political views through high school and early college were very much aligned with the Republican platform as a result.  However, those views began to soften during college, starting with the mess that the Election of 2000 was at the time.  Through my early to mid-20s, my views became more center of the road, to even liberal in nature.  I would classify myself today as a moderate liberal, but I always like to vote for who I believe is best for the job, regardless of their party affiliation or their placement on the political spectrum.  That being said, I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, Reforms, and Libertarians, far to the left, far to the right, and everywhere in between.  In the beginning of this cycle, I narrowed down candidates from both of the major parties that I could get behind.  However, as the campaign progressed, my choices were eliminated by either personal preference or by the lack of votes in the primary.

How I am sure many around the nation and world
felt when they saw the results.
As the campaigns developed and the candidates were narrowed down to Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, I could not get behind either one.  I felt that Hilary had too much baggage coming from too many places regarding the various scandals in her career and Donald lacked experience and was way too controversial.  I am not a believer in the "lesser of two evils" mantra, so I ended up throwing my vote behind Gary Johnson.  Many will call it a wasted vote, but if more people voted third party when they do not like either of the two major party candidates, a third party would have a realistic change.  I was absolutely glued to the TV from about 3 PM Pacific on Tuesday, all the way until 1:30 AM on Wednesday morning, and was, like many people around the country and world, very surprised by the result.  But enough of my rambling, let me get to the point of the whole piece...

The debate is only beginning between all sides as to what a Trump presidency means for the United States.  Supporters are "ready to make America great again", while detractors are protesting, threatening to leave for Canada, and doomsday prepping.  So what does it really mean for us as educators?  It means that we still need to do our jobs to the best of our abilities and work our butts off educating the future leaders of the nation, which is no different than if Hilary Clinton would have been elected.  We still need to get up in the morning, go to work, prepare our lessons, find creative and innovative ways to present said lessons, be there for kids that are having a rough day, congratulate those that are doing amazing things, guide those that need help getting there, keeping a look out for those that are vulnerable because of an abusive household, bullying by their peers, continue to learn to better ourselves as educators, and go home only to wake up and do it all over again.  Politicians can say they are going to do a lot of things.  The bottom line is that those things will only happen through hard work and compromise of hundreds of people within our government.  No one person is too powerful to enact even the simplest of ideas, let alone one as horrific, deplorable, and vile as some campaign promises that were made by the president-elect regarding Muslims, immigrants, and women that choose to end a pregnancy (DISCLAIMER: this is my personal viewpoint on some of the ideas that were touted during the campaign; I do not judge you for your opinions if yours are the opposite of mine, what makes the country great is that we can disagree and still live our lives).  It is going to take hard work from the president-elect, his advisors and cabinet, Congress, and citizens like you and me to make the next few years great.

While I disagree with many of Mr. Trump's policy stances and things that he has done and/or said in the past, I wish him all the best.  Hoping that our president fails is hoping that our nation fails.  I know I will keep an open mind about his presidency, and I hope that more decide to do the same.  If you disagree, you have the right to do so, the right to protest, the right express your anger.  In four years, we will do this all over again and if his presidency is not what he has promised, we will change him out for somebody else.

With that being said, I will bid you "au revoir!" Until next time...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Fall CUE 2016: Reflection & Review

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend the Fall CUE Conference in American Canyon, CA at American Canyon High School.  The conference was an amazing opportunity to network with educators from all over Nevada and California, meeting people that I have connected with over social media for the first time in real life, learn some of the latest and greatest in the world of education, and to top it off, I got to see my sister for part of the weekend.  It was a very enjoyable experience with a lot to share!

Me with the Pirate himself, Dave Burgess!
The keynote speaker that opened the conference on Friday morning was Dave Burgess.  Mr. Burgess is best known as the author of Teach Like a Pirate (highly recommended reading and check out his website).  In his book, he highlights how to tap into your passion for teaching, how to create a rapport with your class that is more positive and engaging and develop lessons that are more energetic and engaging.  He is a high energy presenter whose message is to inspire teachers to be more creative in their planning, motivate students to want to be in their classroom and to dismiss any excuses as to why you are less creative than others, based very heavily on his book.  He also did a breakout session during the day that went deeper into this same message.  I think every teacher has, at some point, expressed doubts in themselves as to whether they are a creative teacher or not.  The main theme that I took from both the keynote and the breakout session is that it is going to be hard work and creativity is not something that comes natural to people, but if you are willing to put in the work, you are going to have a classroom that is much more receptive to you, your material, etc.  It is toxic to say things like "I'm not as creative as (fill in the blank)," or "It must be easy for (fill in the blank)."  It fired me up for the conference to learn all that I could while I was there!  

There were so many sessions to choose from; it made it very hard to decide where I was going to go.  I tried to do a mix of things that are new to me or I have limited skills and things that I am already good at but could get a different perspective.  Two of the session that I chose were hosted by Ed Simoneau and his colleagues on the role of a TOSA and how their district utilizes TOSAs.  Both sessions gave me some great insight to improve my role as a TOSA (not my official title here in Nevada, but the same thing).

I also attended a session on screencasts, hosted by Kevin Fairchild.  I went to this session looking for info on some other programs that I may not be aware of and uses of programs that I currently use.  I have submitted a presentation for the Carson City GAFE Summit in February and I am always looking for more info.  Nothing against Kevin at all, he was a great presenter.  However, after sitting through about half of the session, I realized that I wasn't getting much from his presentation because I already use the programs that he was showing the attendees.  Everybody else in the room got some great information from him, though.

Great fun with great people!
Outside of the Dave Burgess session, my absolute favorites sessions of the conference are a toss-up Jon Corippo's Teach Like a CUE Rockstar session, or Roland Aichele, Lindsey Blass, and Cate Tolnai's #ConnectedTL session.  Since I present at conferences, professional trainings, and well, in my job on a daily basis, I figured I would learn from one of the best in Jon Corippo.  He gave some great tips on how to improve your presentations, some great tools to integrate into presentations and for use with students, and so much more!  I would share ideas, but in respect to Jon's presentation and his words, you need to attend the session to get the info.  The #ConnectedTL session was all about connecting with your PLN through a variety of platforms.  While I use Twitter, Voxer, Google Hangouts and listen to podcasts, it was great to see people I had already met in the past and meet new people that I have networked with over these platforms.  I also look forward to the #ConnectTL chat on Tuesday nights at 7 PM Pacific.  They also have a website you should take a moment to check out.

One of the newest drones, an X-Swing (see how they did that?)
Then there was the CUE STEAMPunk Playground, a place to learn about robots, coding, and other fun stuff.  This is probably the most novice of anything at the conference for me.  However, I walked about the playground and saw the different stuff in action, from drones, robots, and virtual reality.  There is so much potential for these devices in all subject areas (even in social studies, which I taught for 11 years and never could see the connections; I'm starting to see the connections a little bit now...).  I also interviewed Jon Corippo for a couple of minutes asking him why you should use these devices in your classroom.  You can see the interview here.

There were a couple of sessions that I attended that I did not enjoy much.  I will not say which sessions for sake of protecting those presenters, but they were both on topics that I was very interested in learning more about and I left the sessions not really knowing more than I already did or was disappointed that the session wasn't more "try it out" rather than "sit and get".  But even with these two sessions, the others more than made up for it!

I have been to numerous conferences over the years.  This one had to have been the best that I have been to, for several reasons.  The choice in sessions was absolutely superb.  Most of the sessions that I attended were engaging, exciting, informative, and motivating.  I got to see numerous people that I have met previously, and also met several more that I have networked with but had never met in real life.  The Friday evening social hour(s) were especially fun.  I am already counting down to March 15 when the CUE Conference in Palm Springs kicks off.  I know I am going to miss a few names, but I want to give a special mention to so many that were there this weekend:  Jon Corippo, Mike Lawrence, Sara Boucher, Ben Cogswell, Josh Harris, Brian Briggs, Ryan O'Donnell, Tom Covington, Lindsey Blass, Ari Flewelling, Laurie Wong Roberts, Amanda Haughs, Roland Aichele, Ann Kozma, Doug Robertson, Jason Borgen, Roger Wagner, Rushton Hurley, so, so many more!  You all rock!  In the end, as my flight took off, we cruised right over top of San Francisco.  I hope it isn't too long before I see all of you and one of my favorite cities again!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#CUENV Tech Fest 2017

Now that the dust has settled on CUE-NV's State Technology Conference earlier this month, it is now time to get excited about CUE-NV's next major event!

What:   CUE-NV Tech Fest
Where: Douglas High School
           1670 NV-88
            Minden, NV 89423
When: Saturday, January 28, 2017,  8 AM to 5 PM
Why: Because you need to learn more, collaborate more, see Jon Corippo speak, and see Lake Tahoe in winter, which is only about 20 minutes or so away from the school!
How: Register on Eventbrite for $40 or only $20 for CUE members!  Enter the promo code CUEMEMBER during registration to take advantage of this fabulous deal!  Not a CUE member?  Become a member for $40 and enjoy all of the benefits of CUE membership!

The day promises not to disappoint with a keynote from Jon Corippo, the CUE STEAMPunk Playground, numerous sessions on various educational innovations and technology, and plenty of opportunities to meet exciting people in the world of education.  And did I mention that it is close to Lake Tahoe?  Why not make a long weekend out of it to enjoy some learning and some outdoors activities, like world class skiing/snowboarding?  

CUE-NV is in need of presenters for this exciting event.  Do you have something that you wish to share with the world?  Why not sign up to present at Tech Fest?  Your registration fee will be waived, giving you the opportunity to not only present but to attend the rest of the day's sessions and keynote.  Complete a presenter application by December 17, 2016, for consideration.  You must be a CUE member to present (members from ALL affiliates are welcome).

Please share this with your colleagues, friends, PLN, etc.  Space is limited to 225 attendees, so act fast!  You don't want to miss this event, or as the kids say it, #FOMO!  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact CUE-NV at 21stcenturylearning@cue-nv.org, hit me up on Twitter (@AndersonEdTech) or Voxer (andersonedtech), or my email at anderka1@nv.ccsd.net.  We hope to see you there!

Until next time... 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chrome Extensions & Add-Ons Revisited!

Image result for chrome web store logoIt is no secret that I am a huge fan of Google Apps for Edu... wait a minute!  It is no longer GAFE, it is now GSuite for Education!  Regardless, I am a complete fanboy of anything that is Google related.  At this point, the way that I speak of Google, you would think that I was on their payroll (if you are reading this, Google, a small kickback would not be terrible!).  In the past, I have written about some of my favorite Google Chrome apps, extensions, and add-ons.  Because more are added all the time and more are discovered, I am revisiting this exciting topic again!  The Chrome Web Store is a treasure chest of great tools; here are a few of my current favorites.  Each tool is hyperlinked for easy access; just make sure that you are signed into your Chrome browser to add these great tools.

Print Friendly & PDF:  This Chrome extension allows users to make a web page more printer friendly.  Often times, websites contain a lot of extras that you may not necessarily need if you are looking to print the page.  News websites are a great example.  If you wanted to print an article from a news site, it may take 5 pages of paper.  With this extension, you can eliminate all of the extras.  You can also edit the page to eliminate items that you may not want.  That five-page printout can now be two, maybe even one, page.  You can also save web pages, without the extras, as a .pdf file.  I used to have two different extensions to cover these functions; now Print Friendly & PDF serves both purposes!

Chrome UA Spoofer:  Sometimes, you come across a website that does not work as well, or at all, in Google Chrome.  The website may require you to view through Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer.  Before, you would need to open up the other browser to view the page.  In the case of a Chromebook, your only option is Google Chrome, so you were not able to see the page on the Chromebook. I discovered this issue when trying to use MLB.TV on a Chromebook, which is not supported.  This extension solves these issues!  It "tricks" the website into thinking you are using a different browser when you are still in Google Chrome.  It provides numerous browser options, as well as browser version options.  It gives you the option to toggle a different browser on/off when yo visit a website, or you can create a permanent spoof list in the extension's options, defaulting to a specific browser when you visit a site without having to remember to toggle the spoofer on/off.

Black Menu for Google:  Websites under the Google umbrella always have the apps icon, or "the waffle" as many refer to is as.  From there, you can access any Google product, such as Search, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, etc.  While it may be a rarity (for me especially) to not be on some form of a Google site, you may want to access Google sites more quickly.  This is where the extension Black Menu for Google comes into play.  Essentially, "the waffle" is placed in the browser next to the omnibar (speaking of the ominbar, wait to read about the next one!).  From any website, click on the extension and access the Google site that you need.  From the extension, you can conduct a Google search, post to Google+, view your Blogger page, create a new Doc, create a new list in Keep, and so much more.

OmniDrive:  Have you ever needed to search for something in your Google Drive, only to have to open a new tab, open Drive, and search for your item?  What a hassle, right?  Save yourself the time by searching directly from the Chrome omnibar (ominbox, address bar, etc.).  Once you install the extension, you simply type "drive", followed by a space, and the OmniDrive function will turn on.  From there, conduct your search of a file or folder in your Drive and it will pull up options from which to choose.

SpeakIt!:  Coming directly from the description in the Chrome Web Store, "Tired of reading? Select text you want to read and listen to it. SpeakIt converts text into speech so you no longer need to read."  You simply highlight the text that you wish to be read, click on the extension or right click to select "SpeakIt!" and let the soft, soothing voice of the computer read the text for you.  The best thing?  You can select male or female voices reading in different dialects, accents, and languages.  I personally like the British accents, but there are tons of options available.  

My certificate I created using Autocrat
Autocrat:  This Google Sheets add-on, available through the add-ons function when you open Google Sheets (add-ons are available in Google Docs and Forms as well), is an effective mail merge tool.  However, rather than simply using spreadsheet data to send an email, you can also create form letters, certificates, and other great products by creating a template and merging data from a spreadsheet to the template.  I created some great certificates of attendance to a training I hosted a while back for all attendees with a few clicks of the mouse and a bit of typing.  Each attendee received an email with the certificate attached.  I did have a bit of a time fully figuring out how to effectively use this add-on. I did break down and watch a rather lengthy video on YouTube that explained the ins and outs of the program.  A giant thank you goes out to Eric Curts on YouTube for his video "AutoCrat 3.0 for Merging Certificates."

Speech Recognition:  This add-on for Google Docs gives users the ability to speak their text, rather than typing it into the document.  This is a great tool for younger students that are still learning to type or for older students that struggle with typing.  I used this tool extensively with a student last year that was autistic and struggled mightily with typing and technology in general.  She was able to speak her thoughts into the document and go back to add punctuation and clean up anything that the computer misheard.

I will periodically revisit Chrome apps, extensions, and add-ons as new ones are created and I give them a whirl.  What are some of your favorites?  I am always looking to learn more!

Until next time...

P. S.
You may have noticed that I changed the name of my blog to Anderson Ed Tech.  I also changed the URL of it to anderson-edtech.blogspot.com.  Please share this new address with your colleagues and PLN!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Screenshotting and Casting to Better Teaching

Image result for ben stein memes
DO NOT be this guy!  
It is no secret that lecture-based education is not the most effective form of teaching and learning.  Students that are part of a "sit & get" type class typically do not retain knowledge, nor can they relate what they should have learned to more practical, real-life applications.  In short, teaching and learning should be more student-centered, incorporate more of the senses, rather than just listening, and varied on a frequent basis.  Luckily for educators, there are tons of free tools that can help to differentiate lessons and get them away from the lectures of the past.

A great way to make your lessons better is to make them more visually appealing.  Incorporating screenshots and screencasts into your lessons can achieve this quickly and easily, many of the tools available to educators are free or very low cost, and they can also be used by students to incorporate visuals into their own work.

DISCLAIMER: The list of tools below are not exhaustive.  There are tons of programs available and a search through Google or through the Chrome Web Store (in your Chrome browser) will turn up many great tools.  These are tools that I have used before.  I do have my preferences, and I will identify which ones are my favorites; this does not mean that they are necessarily the tools that you should use.  You should try different tools to find your personal favorite.  It may be one that I suggest, it may be one that you find on your own.  If you find a new one that is not on my list, please share it with me! Each tool will be linked so you can easily find them and try them!

SnagIt:  My personal favorite tool, this, unfortunately, is not a free tool.  There used to be a free Google Chrome extension, but TechSmith, the makers of SnagIt, eliminated support for the extension in August.  This program has the most features of any program that I have tried when it comes to taking screenshots, screencasts, and editing.  You can take screenshots/casts of your full screen, tab only, scrolling, or select an area of the screen.  In editing mode, you have numerous options to make your screenshot/cast whatever you want it to be, including a .gif generator.  There are also tons of options to save your work, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, save to disk, and others.  Even though this a premium program, TechSmith does offer a free 15 day trial of the program.  If you like it, TechSmith offers an educator price of $29.95 and discounts bulk purchases of the program if you buy 5 or more.  You can also install it on multiple devices (I have a version of SnagIt on my personal laptop and my school workstation).  My biggest complaint is that they do not have a Chromebook version of it and the free Chrome extension is no longer available.  

Camtasia: This is another premium tool made by TechSmith, this one focus on screencasting, video, and video editing.  The features are very similar to SnagIt, but, obviously, more geared toward video editing.  Camtasia allows you to edit video and audio separately, import video from outside sources, incorporate a webcam, and even add closed captioning.  Like SnagIt, TechSmith offers a 15-day free trial, and also includes an educator price.  However, this program is much pricier at $179.00.  I was fortunate enough to get a free version of the program, and I do like it, but I am not sure if I would spend that much money on it, especially because I do not use it very often.  For my screencasting jobs, I can take care of most of them using SnagIt.  If you looking to produce a high-quality video with a program that is easier to use than common video programs like iMovie and is available for PC and Mac, Camtasia may be a great fit for you.

Awesome Screenshot:  This is a Chrome app that allows users to take screenshots and make simple annotations to said screenshots.  It is also available as an extension through the Chrome Web Store.  It allows users to save to a local disk, save to awesomescreenshot.com and create shareable links and also provides support for Google Drive.  A premium version of the program is available that provides more annotation tools, but if you are looking for a quick way to take screenshots and make simple annotations, this is a great program for you.  

Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Recorder: This program, available through the Chrome Web Store as an app or extension, is a great replacement for the since discontinued SnagIt extension.  Like Awesome Screenshot, it allows users to take screenshots and make simple annotations.  It also allows for simple screencast recordings, with simple annotations to those recordings.  Anything you create can be automatically saved into your Google Drive, to a local drive, or uploaded to the Nimbus website.  It has a few more features for annotation that are not available in the Awesome Screenshot app/extension, so if you are looking to take screenshots to another level, this may be a great program for you.  

Screencastify: When SnagIt discontinued their extension (notice a theme here?  I REALLY liked that extension!), I needed a screencasting program that would work on a Chromebook.  Screencastify was my answer.  It allows users to record their screens, record the page's audio, and add a voiceover.  With the free version, you can record up to 5 minutes.  However, there are a couple of downfalls to this extension.  First of all, the free version has a watermark on the bottom of the screen.  That watermark was getting in the way of items that I needed in my videos.  It also does not allow any editing of your screencast, so you need to get it right on the first try! A premium version of the program will eliminate the watermark and allow for users to edit for $24/year.  I do like the program enough that I paid for the subscription, especially because it works so well on a Chromebook.  Another downfall is that it only will record within the Chrome browser, so taking a screencast of your desktop or within another program is out of the question.  However, another great feature is that any recording will be saved automatically to Google Drive and you can upload recordings directly to YouTube.  

Screencast-O-Matic: This program is very similar to Screencastify, with a few slight differences.  First, this is a website program and it is not available in the Chrome Web Store.  Second, you get up to 15 minutes of free recording, with a watermark.  Another difference is the premium cost, with Screencast-O-Matic going for $15/year.  With the free plan, you can upload to YouTube, but it does not save to Google Drive.  You can get that option if you pay for the premium version.  

Play around with these programs.  Conduct a web search or through the Chrome Web Store to find others and play around with those.  Find which of these programs work best for you.  You will quickly find that you will create more engaging, visually appealing, and effective presentations for your students.  Share these programs with your colleagues and students.  Working together, we can ALL improve!

Until next time... 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


This past weekend, CUE-NV hosted our State Technology Conference at Western High School in Las Vegas.  Months and months of planning went into making the conference a success, with several people putting in countless hours of work recruiting presenters/topics, vendors, preparing a budget, organizing sessions, ordering food and supplies, and advertising what we were planning to be a can't miss conference.  Overall, after a couple of days of decompressing and not having to think about the planning phases any more, I was able to take some time and evaluate the conference, celebrate what went well, think about what we could do better, and begin the planning stage of next year's conference (which, by the way, is already set for September 29-30, register now for a super early bird rate of $69, which includes a CUE membership, breakfast, and lunch).  On the whole, I couldn't be happier with how well the conference went, I met some amazing people and learned some things that I can take back to my job and my position as vice president of CUE-NV.  

The conference consisted of two keynote speakers, an opening, and a closing.  Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur) opened the conference on Friday evening, motivating attendees and starting the learning fire that would be the next 36 hours.  Dozens of sessions on a wide range of educational topics ensued, with two hour-long sessions on Friday night and five throughout the day on Saturday.  Attendees were treated to breakfast before the Saturday festivities and a great lunch that was sponsored by Lexia (@LexiaLearning). A technology slam took place during lunch where seven educators presented various techy programs or apps, with the audience judging the winner (yours truly won the Tech Slam with a rousing presentation of Timesify... if you haven't heard of it, I highly suggest you do a quick Google search!).  Between sessions and during lunch, attendees were able to learn about some of the latest and greatest in the world of education from 14 vendors that took time out of their busy schedules to come to Las Vegas and promote their products.  Justin Schleider (@SchleiderJustin) wrapped up the learning on Saturday afternoon with a very inspiring closing keynote that highlighted the importance of being critical consumers of information.  Finally, my partner in crime, CUE-NV President Heidi Carr (@carr_8) and I wrapped things up with some information about future events and a giveaway of some awesome prizes like t-shirts, licenses for products like Pear Deck, SnagIt, and Camtasia, registrations to future CUE-NV events and the CUE National conference, and two Chromebooks.  

We also had a surprise visitor show up to the conference on Saturday afternoon.  Amanda Haughs (@MsHaughs), a PLN colleague in which I had interacted on several occasions via #tosachat, messaged the #tosachat Voxer group to announce that she was going to be in Las Vegas for the weekend and wondered if it would be possible to crash the party.  Snehal Bhakta (@Snehalstocks) picked Amanda up at her hotel and brought her over to say hello and mingle with presenters and attendees.  She even stepped up and fired out a Tech Slam presentation.  

From left to right: Jason Borgen (@jborgen), Rich Dixon (@RichEdTech), Snehal Bhakta (@Snehalstocks), Kyle Anderson (@AndersonEdTech), Steven New (@StevenNew1), unknown (seated), Amanda Haughs (@MsHaughs)

Another highlight moment of the conference came from Araam Zare, a Shadow Ridge High School junior and one of the presenters of the conference.  I met Araam earlier this year when he was recommended as somebody that could help out with various technology around the school.  He has been absolutely amazing in helping to image and enroll Chromebooks, troubleshoot issues with computers, and so much more.  I asked him early on if he would be interested in presenting a student perspective to teachers at the conference and he enthusiastically agreed.  Araam presented a student perspective of innovation and educational technology to a group of about 12 teachers that (most likely purposely) hit him with tough questions.  Araam breezed through the presentation without missing a beat.  I couldn't be more proud of him and I hope that he will be willing to present at future CUE-NV events. 

Overall, the conference was a resounding success.  I wasn't worried about it being a failure, but you always need to prepare for glitches to happen.  About the only thing that went wrong during the weekend was the lack of air conditioning that could not get fixed while we were there.  While it did cause of a great deal of discomfort and complaining, it was completely understandable.  Verbal feedback from most everybody that I spoke with was positive, and many are looking forward to our next events.  In the coming months, we will be hosting #CoffeeCUE, #BeerCUE, #CUEHike, and a slew of one-day mini-conferences, many of which will also be happening in Northern Nevada.  We also will be hosting two larger events in Northern Nevada, with our CUE-NV Tech Fest at Douglas High School in Minden, NV on January 28 (if you are CUE member, watch  your email for a special rate code) and the Reno Tech Event on April 28-29 (more information on this event to follow). 

With the conference completed, I plan to take a little bit of time to relax before diving into the next event full bore.  I have several other things to look forward to in the coming days and weeks, such as a happy hour with my Las Vegas Team RWB friends (Team RWB is a veterans' organization, I highly recommend you check us out and get involved, it is a national organization that promotes physical and social activity for veterans and civilians alike, see www.teamrwb.org), one of my best friends from high school is getting married in Michigan (and my wife and I are going alone, without the kids!), Fall CUE at the end of October, a trip to Disneyland for my daughter's 5th birthday in November (she is going to lose it when she gets to go not only to Disneyland, but the character breakfast with Ariel, the Bibbity Boppity Boutique to get a princess makeover, and fireworks at night), Monterey Aquarium (I hope to meet up with Jason Borgen and Ben Cogswell while I'm going through there!), and my parents' place in Northern California for Thanksgiving.  

Until next time...