Friday, December 11, 2015

Chrome Extensions that Rock!

At yesterday's Lunch & Learn at an early childhood school, teachers wanted to learn about how Chrome Extensions work and which ones improve instruction, productivity, and organization. Here is a super short list with descriptions of some of my favorites!

How to Add Extensions

Put simply, to add Extensions or Apps to your browser, go to the Chrome Web Store, search for the Extension/App by name, and click Add to Chrome next to the one you want.

My Favorite Extensions

Read & Write – hear words on a page read aloud! And more features for writing and studying like text to speech, highlighting, suggestions for and meaning of words, etc. URL shortener – shortens the link to a more manageable length, making it easier for people to write down. Also provides a QR Code to scan!

OneTab – combines all open tabs into one page of a list of the links to each website. I especially like this tool for collecting all my open tabs into one at the end of the day so I can easily pick up where I left off the next day. By clicking “Share as a web page” you can easily share your resources with others. You can name the tab group by clicking More and then Name this tab group.

To open it to view previously saved tab groups, right click the extension and choose Display One Tab.

Save to Drive – saves articles, images, etc. directly to your Google Drive. You can even right-click an image on a website and save it to Google Drive. No downloading/uploading needed!

Clearly – de-clutters a site and lets you highlight text (among other things!)

Google Translate – translates a page to the language of your choice

TechSmith SnagIt – lets you capture a screenclipping, annotate it with arrows/circles/text boxes, and then either download it or copy the URL to it! You can even record your screen with it and make animated GIFs, like the one I made above! This one is my fave because I can quickly and easily create instructions in the form of an annotated screenshot or video and email it to a teacher to answer his/her question. Think of what students can create! I would have had my marketing students create demos of how to navigate a website, show their work, or create instructional how-tos. Oh, and SnagIt automatically saves your screenshots/videos to a folder in Google Drive for you! 

What's Your Favorite?

Which one's are your faves? Please comment with your favorite app/extension and why! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Google Hangouts: A Plano Educator Exclusive!

UPDATE November 2016: Google Hangouts on Air has moved to YouTubeLive. Read more about it here:

If you have not checked this out yet, then now is the time! Grab a buddy in a neighboring room and give it a try!

Why Hangout?

Whether you are a classroom teacher who would like to invite a guest speaker from across the world to virtually connect with students, a curriculum coordinator who wants to get creative with professional development, or a principal who would like to include parents who can't attend an after-school meeting, Google Hangouts is closing gaps and simplifying lives. 

Here are just a few ways to use Hangouts:

How to Hangout

  • In the Google Chrome browser, go to
  • Sign in using your PISD email address & network password
  • Click "Video Call"
  • Give it a name and click the arrow to get started!
  • If you have an all-in-one computer, then your webcam and microphone are already built-in! If not, ask your CTA for an external webcam and microphone (that's what I use here in the office).
  • Invite people to join the video conference by clicking the "Invite People" button on the top
    • You can invite people from outside the Plano ISD organization
    • They must have a Google account
  • Check out this excellent graphic with detailed descriptions by the "Geeky GAFE Girl".
  • Hangouts works across devices so it's easy to connect from anywhere! Download the Hangouts app!
    • Side story: My dad has an Android so he was bummed out that he couldn't place video calls like his iPhone Facetime-obsessed family members, until now!
  • More features explained:

Practice Makes Perfect

Be sure to allow enough time before your virtual meeting to practice so that you feel calm and ready for the real deal. As always, feel free to practice with any of us in Instructional Technology!

Disclaimer: This is by no means a thorough how-to for Hangouts. The screenshots above are from presentations I've done on campuses (and will do at TCEA 2016!!) in which I go into more depth. Please reach out if you have more questions or would like me to come help you/your staff learn more! Like how to broadcast to more people, how to record the Hangouts using Hangouts on Air, and setting YouTube privacy settings, to name a few. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Add a Photo Slideshow to your Google Site

A teacher challenged me with a task this morning. She emailed asking if I knew how to insert a photo slideshow into Google Sites. Ummm, sure don't, but give me a few minutes and I will! I love getting questions like these from teachers because I get to learn something new, too. :)

After clicking around and reading forums, this is what I discovered. And please comment if you know of another/better way to do this!

Gather Your Photos

Go to
  • If you already have photos in here that you want to use, click the button to create a photo album and then add the photos that you have to it. 
  • If you need to upload the photos, click the upload button, locate and upload your photos, then create the album and add the photos that you just uploaded to it. 

Insert the Photos as a Slideshow in Google Sites

In your Google Site, go to the page on which you'd like to add the slideshow.
  • Click to Edit the page and place your cursor where the slideshow should go. 
  • Go to Insert, Google+, Photo Album. 

Select the album to be placed on the page.
Choose the settings you like. I changed the size to Large and selected AutoPlay. Very cool feature!
After you click Save, you'll see the photo album placeholder. If you need to edit the size or other properties again, click the Properties gear on the bottom left of the photo album placeholder.

On mine, I clicked the button to center the slideshow on the page. When you're ready, click Save on your Google Site to see the finished product! Since I selected "Autoplay", my slideshow runs automatically. Love it!
Stay Googly, friends!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Edcamp Reflection

Say what?!

Don't know what an edcamp is? Watch this!

My answers to an edcamp survey

I received an email request recently to complete a survey (in a Google Form! #love) to provide feedback on my edcamp experiences. I gladly obliged and as I was entering my answers, it struck me how impactful edcamps have been on my professional relationships, my practice, and my approach to learning. I wanted to share some of my answers to the survey. I sprinkled a few of my favorite images to accentuate my points. (I'm a quote hoarder on Pinterest, btw). If you have ever been to an edcamp, do you share some of the same experiences? Please add your comments below to keep the conversation going.

How have you changed your practice because of your Edcamp experience?

As an Instructional Tech Specialist, I have approached the planning of technology training and professional learning differently. Edcamps have helped me see the benefit in giving teachers choice and voice in their professional learning. For example, rather than my team of five designing summer tech trainings like we've always done it, where we lead it, we opened it up to let teachers "apply" to facilitate summer classes. We "accepted" every session and it was a huge hit! Most classes have been full all summer. Teachers LOVE to learn from each other!

Created using PicMonkey.

How supportive has your school/colleagues been with what you brought back from edcamp?

I'm lucky to work in a very supportive environment. My colleagues have welcomed the ideas I've brought back from edcamps. Principals love the idea and some have adopted the edcamp model for professional learning on their campuses! I can't wait to attend the Like-Campus edcamp among 10 elementary schools in our district this month! And help organize an edcamp for the staff of two high schools next week!

What impact do you perceive edcamp is having on student learning?

Article: The Person Doing the Work is Doing the Learning
In this position, I work more with teachers than directly with students. I think that the teachers who attended edcamps with me realize that relinquishing some control as a teacher can positively impact student learning.
I think it's encouraged the "guide on the side" student-centered method of teaching rather than the "sage on the stage" or teacher-centric method.
Experts everywhere

What evidence have you seen of this perceived impact?

I've seen teachers become more confident with using technology and taking risks with trying new things! Putting the learning in the hands of the students results in an explosion of creativity! And fostering a collaborative team environment gives students the opportunity to learn from each other.

What relationship have you seen between edcamp and online professional activities?

I see the relationship between edcamps and online professional activities being that teachers from different schools are gathering to have conversations about what is working for them in their classrooms and sharing strategies that will make them more skilled at their practice. Both on- and offline, they're building their PLN (professional learning network).

In what way have you maintained communication with those you've met at edcamps?

Twitter is my main source for connecting other educators. I have followed, Tweeted, Direct Messaged, Favorited, and Retweeted several educators that I've met at edcamps to ask questions or share our learning.

I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my edcamp experiences through that survey. Thanks for indulging me, y'all! :)

edcamp Global - something I'm very proud of! :)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Don't be Tardy to the Google Classroom - A Plano Teacher Exclusive!

You've heard about it, and now you're ready to find out what the excitement is all about. If you have been, or want to, have your students turn in assignments via Google Drive, you are going to LOVE Google Classroom. It's intuitive, user-friendly, and adds to Google's googly goodness! Google Classroom does not replace myPISD as it is not a robust Learning Management System (LMS). It's a content management system that lets you communicate with students and streamlines the workflow of how you/your students can assign/submit work via the Google Drive. Here are some basic steps to getting started with your very own Google Classroom(s).
  1. Video How-To: I subscribe to Amy Mayer’s YouTube channel because she has fabulous instructional videos for all things Google. Her tutorial on Getting Started with Google Classroom (12 min.) is worth the watch! Check it out!
  2. How to get to Google Classroom: Open Google Chrome (NOT Internet Explorer) and go to Sign in using your PISD email address and network password. If this is your first time accessing it, you’ll need to select whether you’re a Teacher or a Student. (This might seem obvious, but don't click Student. I learned this the hard way!) J. On the top right of the screen, click the plus sign and choose Create. Name your class and click Create. When you open your class, look for the Class Code on the left. This is what you’ll give your students to join your class. (No need to type in your students’ names!)
  3. How students join your class: Tell students to open Chrome and go to They’ll sign in using their email and password, too. Student email is They will click the plus sign and select Join. Then give them your class code. It’s that easy! Tip: Zoom in using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key and the + sign so your students can see your class code on the big screen.
  4. Who can access it? Google Classroom requires a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) domain to access. We are a "GAFE district" so staff and students can get to it, no problem! It is not accessible by the public so parents will need to sign in using their student's email and password.
  5. Learn more! Join my Google Classroom to see news/tips/handouts, to practice, and to ask questions. My Class Code is 1mser3!

The steps above are just the basics. For a more in-depth training, one of us from the Instructional Technology Dept. would be more than happy to come show you/your dept. how to have your students turn in assignments and how to post announcements in the Stream. We'd need just 30-45 min. to get you going. Plus, we can give you some tips that will help you feel knowledgeable and comfortable with using Google Classroom (e.g. how many classes to create, enabling/disabling students' ability to post/comment in the Stream, posting an assignment/announcement to more than one class at a time, and more!). I recommend that you create a class (even if it's just called "Practice Class"), join each other’s classes to test things and see how it works before students join your Classroom. You can always archive the class and/or delete posts on the Stream later. Good luck!