Monday, August 25, 2014

Calgary Summit: Apps, Extensions, Add-Ons, Links and Tips Oh My

This summer I went to the first annual EdTechTeam Calgary Summit featuring Google for Education. This was my third "GAFE Summit". My primary reason for going to such an intense event during my summer HOLIDAYS was to get more experience with presenting. However, I also went because my previous two experiences were energizing and motivating.

As I presented three times, I missed out on attending a number of great sessions. However, I still came away with a number of ideas and contacts. I hope to share some of the ideas/links that I found inspiring and interesting. If you want to delve deeper than what my blog post provides, you can check out the Collaborative Notes from the Summit.

Going to GAFE Summits are great because they include educators from a vast majority of backgrounds and teaching positions. In this blog post, I will be sharing what I think may be useful for division one teachers.

Apps, Extensions, Add-Ons, Links and Tips Oh My

I stole this title almost straight from Michelle Armstrong who did a session on apps, extensions and add-ons. However, I will be sharing ideas from a variety of sessions.

What Are They?

Apps and extensions are mini-programs that enhance the Chrome browser. Add-ons are usually former scripts that enhance Google Document or Google Sheets. You access all of them from the Chrome Web Store. Note, there are two add-on stores: a Docs Add-On store and a Sheets Add-On store.  Like all things on the Internet, not all apps/extensions should be trusted. Check out the ratings and reviews. Also, it should be noted that having too many extensions running, doing so can slow down your browser. You can still have them installed but turned off until needed (see below for an extension to help with that). 


  • Awesome Screenshot  - allows you to edit, annotate, and share images. What I liked is that you could blur out part of an image. 
  • Speak It and Announcify - read websites out loud.
  • Extension Manager/Switcher - allows you to easily turn on and off your extensions.  
  • Adblock and Adblocker Plus - Block advertisements. How are they different? One forum I read said that Adblock is developed originally for Chrome, and Adblock Plus comes from Firefox.
  • One Tab - When you have a number of tabs open, OneTab will convert all of your tabs into a list.
  • Screencastify - video screen capture software.
  • Read and Write For Google - Free for teachers! In the premium version, it has a variety of for reading and writing supports. In the free version, students can have text read to them in Google Document.
  • Boomerang for Gmail - remember MS Outlook's delayed send option? This replaces it for Gmail, basically it schedules messages to be sent at a later time.
Want more extension ideas? Check out the blog post Great Classroom Specific Chrome Extension by Holly Clark (who is a regular GAFE Summit presenter).


  • Pixlr - photoshop but easier
  • Tab Timer - timer shows in the tab while you work in other tabs


  • Doctopus (for Sheets)- a super easy way to share documents from your drive with others. Google Classroom looks like it will do the same. 
  • Flubaroo (for Sheets) - a grading add-on. 



  • If you have the new Google Drive, change your drive to grid view and colour code your folders. If you associate one colour for each class / subject / theme and use then use that colour scheme across all your google apps.

  • Edit (or completely remove) your bookmarks’ names so they are only icons, giving you more bookmark toolbar space.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Sequel: This is the blog post that doesn't end. Yes, it goes on and on my friend.

During the 2012-2013 school year I wrote a blog post that I updated throughout the year to capture what technology looked like in my classroom. Since then I have been to three GAFE Summits and many EPSB Community of Practice Sessions. So, while it is only two years later, I feel it is time to do this again! Please join me on my journey!

School Set-Up

Before students arrive in my classroom, there are a number of things I do to get my classroom technology ready. This year I'll be adding Google Classroom to the mix.

Computer Code Cards

In division one it is tempting to write student's usernames AND passwords on their nametags or have them in other visible places in the classroom. The issue with that is it is not encouraging digital citizenship in regards to password safety. 

While it is not perfect, I use computer code cards instead. Each student gets a laminated card to keep in their desk. It has all their usernames and passwords, as well as the computer/laptop/tablet number they have been assigned. I also like to sent home a copy as well. 

When introducing the computer code cards, I want to talk about passwords and keeping them private. I like CommonSense Media's K-2 lesson about powerful passwords

iPod Music Centre

I try to start the day with music. I play music during independent working time, when appropriate, especially during art. I had a small iPod that was not being used at home. So I loaded it up with a number of playlists: 

  • Good morning music - mellow music with no lyrics for when students enter class.
  • End of day music - exciting music, like What The Fox Say, for when students leave.
  • Movement breaks - music that students can move to for a break.
  • Curriculum songs - songs that relate to math, science, etc. 
  • Songs to borrow from - traditional songs that we can use to make up new songs (for instance last year we used Row, Row, Row Your Boat to write Melt, Burn, Cook, Boil to show what the class learned about hot temperatures. 
  • Whole albums - I have a number of children's albums I also uploaded (such as Raffi, Michael Mitchell)
I used the iPod a bit last year, but  I would like to turn it over to student helpers more this year. 


Each year I include headphones in my supply list for parents. However, some headphones that arrive do not last long. As well, there are occasionally students who do not bring any initially. So I always have about 5 extra headphones for use in class. As well, I offer to sell them to families who did not send them at cost. I buy them at dollar stores. The over the head type are not always at the dollar stores, so I stock up when I can find them. August-September is a good time of year to look.

Google Classroom

Our district now has Google Classroom. However, I believe that it will no longer be invite only soon. I set up my class and took the tours that popped up as I did so. I also looked at Google Classroom Set Up and Tips For Teachers. I turned the email notifications off as I do not think this is needed in grade two. 

What It Does (based on my initial experimentation)
  • Allows you to share items from your drive with students, much like Doctopus does. 
  • Allows you to post announcements on which students can comment.
  • Allows students to submit their work easily, much like the hand-in option on SchoolZone
  • Allows you give feedback to students on their submitted work. 
  • Allows you to record the grade you give an assignment. 

What It Does Not Do (as far as I can tell)
  • Give parents access, like SchoolZone
  • Embed a classroom calendar
  • Replace ePortfolios
  • Give you access to a "student view"

SchoolZone Set-Up

For the past few years I've tried to go as paperless as possible for classroom-home communication. So I have tried to maximize my use of SchoolZone. I post topical items in the news and events sections. I use the resources section as a database and archive. 

This year I have created one entry in resources with headings for each subject area. That way I can add to the entry as needed while still keeping it easily to navigate for parents. 

September: First Weeks Of School

Usernames, Passwords, Memberships, Oh My!

More information coming soon.

Class Writes on The Blog

More information coming soon.

Logging In For The First Time

Second week of school! Get helpers!

  • RazKids!

Spelling Online

  • SpellingCity (multiple times)


  • Kidblog - writing comments



Monday, August 18, 2014

Teacher Made Materials Using Division One

Thanks to Kelly Maxwell for sharing how she uses video in her grade two classroom. Students watch videos embedded in Presentation and then record what they have learned in a paper booklet. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Final Project, Choice and Technology

Last year I began to use RAFT with my grade two students when working on writing projects. The main reason was to provide choice for my students but still provide structure. I plan to continue to use it next year. Like anything new we try in the classroom, there are kinks to be worked out. Here is my reflection on using RAFT and letting grade two students choose the format for their final product.

What's It Is Like To Be In A Play

I have done reader's theatre with my students for many years. After the plays, I usually have students write/reflect about what it is like to be in a play. This year I decided to apply RAFT to the activity. Each time I do RAFT, I leave one of the elements open for choice. This time I decided to leave format open. As a class we brainstormed possible ways to share information with next year's grade twos. They came up with:
  • letter/email
  • blog post
  • instructions
  • video (which would need a script)

Brainstorming and Planning

I told students: No matter your final format, you'll  need a first draft. 
I asked students: How are you going to organize your ideas?

A class discussion led to the decision that a descriptive organizer was the best option. As a class, we did a circle map brainstorm of ideas that should be included in the writing. Then students wrote their first drafts. I edited the drafts.


All student work was published on our class blog, except the email one. I scanned the posters and embedded the videos. Students who chose a blog post, wrote their final copies directly on the class blog. Parents had already signed FOIP forms in September. However, I sent home a note informing them about this specific project because some students were on video. 

After I posted the projects on the blog, I selectively shared our blog post with some G+ groups. We got one great response! Another teacher was going to share the videos with her class. I also shared all the videos, posters and blog posts with the class so they could see each other's final projects.


Overall, it was a successful project. If I were to do it again, I would limit the choice to two or three items. Providing instructions was the least successful product as students struggled with how to show this and it was decided a poster would be the best option. The email option worked well enough, but I had the student sent it to the grade one teacher to share with her class. I am not sure he got the same sense of accomplishment as the other students. The video option went much better than I had anticipated. 

Student Examples*



Blog Post


* permissioned obtained by parents to share these projects on this blog specifically.