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, hit me up on Twitter (@AndersonEdTech) or Voxer (andersonedtech), or my email at  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  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 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, 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...