Friday, July 21, 2017

Three Essential Tech Skills for Teachers with Chromebooks

I was at a small conference this week at our ISD. That means I spent a lot of time preparing sessions, presenting and chatting with colleagues. I realized I keep coming back to a few "essential skills for teachers", so I thought I'd compile my resources for them here.

These are not directed to teachers on the cutting edge of tech integration. They are for those many teachers who have Chromebooks, but mostly use them for research and managing assignments in Google Classroom. 

All of these appear on my blog somewhere else, but I'm combining them here along with some next steps or extended activities. And I added some essential reading at the end too.

Skill #1:  Getting photos and video from a phone or tablet into Google Drive

I'm still amazed at how many teachers don't use this. They (or their students) try to email files or even send them in text messages. If you can get a photo or video to Google Drive right on your phone, you have a bridge between the real world and your tech projects. From Drive, you (or the people you share them with) can open the images and videos on a Chromebook and use them in countless ways.

Here's my blog post and video tutorial about this. The video is just over a minute long, but I've seen this make a big difference for teachers.

Next Steps or Extended Activities

  • Most apps have other ways of sharing out the files. I didn't include it in the tutorial because of all the possible variations, but experiment with it on your phone. Can you get the content from your favorite apps into Drive? If so, it offers great options for projects on the Chromebooks.
  • The Google Slides and Docs apps on phones and tablets will allow you to insert the pictures directly into the document or slideshow. Imagine having a team working on the slides while another documents the activity by taking pictures. One teacher I showed this to last summer told me it's now a Day 1 activity for his middle school science classes.

Skill #2:  Making a PDF eBook Using Google Slides

PDFs can be viewed easily on any device. Teachers and students who can turn their slideshows into PDFs have a great opportunity for showing off the learning beyond the classroom. 

While it can take awhile to make attractive pages in Google Slides, the few clicks necessary to make a custom sized PDF only take about a minute. From there, the creation options for communicating to the world are endless.

Next Steps or Extended Activities
  • Mostly the next steps here are just to improve the design of your ebook. For example, more attractive images, better layouts, etc. This comes from exploring the different tools in Google Slides and learning about good design.
  • I've helped very young students create presentations in Google Slides. Even in kindergarten we had success with it. Of course, you have to provide more structure in early grades. For example, in that project I built the slides and put clipart on each one. The students just moved the graphics around to design their pages. In third grade we made ebooks and gave the students more freedom. There I simply created a blank slideshow and changed the dimensions of the slides as shown in the tutorial above. Then I shared it to groups through Google Classroom and they added the content collaboratively.

Skill #3:  Making a Recorded Slideshow with Screencastify

I created this tutorial several months ago, but it was clear at the tech conference this week that many agree with me. Screencastify is the screen recording tool of choice for a Chromebook. I love how it records the screen and goes immediately to Google Drive.

In my district, I encourage all teachers and any student in grades 6 - 12 to use that tool along with Google Slides to make a "recorded slideshow". It's a good first step in screen recording that lets teachers communicate a lesson or other information. And students can use it to show what they've learned.

See my tutorial here for complete information on this important process.

And here is my free Tech Project Pack about the process. It contains information and resources to help teachers integrate it into any subject.

Next Steps or Extended Activities
  • My tutorial is about recording a presentation as you click through the slides, but really you can record anything on the screen. You could introduce a website, a skill using a new tech tool or (by recording the camera) you can even capture live video. The paid version of Screencastify allows editing of the video to some extent and many other good tools are out there to make professional recordings. Camtasia is my favorite, but it is costly.
  • Explore tab recording in Screencastify. It gives you more tools as you record.
  • The same process can be used for digital storytelling. Imagine making the pages of a story in Google Slides, then recording it while telling the story and clicking through the pages. For young students, the whole story could be told with just a single slide or even a single photo.
  • Students can also use Screencastify to record their explanation of a problem. For example, they might use Google Drawings to create a visualization of a math problem, then they could record themselves explaining their thinking. 

Required Reading for Every Teacher Who Uses Technology

Be sure to see my post from earlier this summer about Liz Kolb's Triple E Framework. It is the most practical, research based model I've seen for directing or evaluating effective use of tech in the classroom. As my post explains, her website contains a lot of valuable information, but her book is well worth reading. It's called Learning First, Technology Second.

So that's my current list of essentials. If you have questions or suggestions to add to the list, please add a comment below or send me an email.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to Use the Google Drive App to Transfer Photos or Video from a Phone or Tablet

This is an essential skill for showing off the learning that takes only a few minutes to master, yet I regularly encounter teachers and students who can't do it. Take a minute to watch the video if you're still using USB cables or email (or worst of all, text messages) to get your files to a computer.

If you have photos or video on your phone (or you want to take some) to bring them into projects or share them with others, learn to use the Google Drive app. It's so easy!

It's the bridge from the real world to your projects. I've seen teachers get excited when they realize the possibilities this opens up for creative classroom projects.

This short video tutorial shows everything you need to know.

Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Make a PDF eBook Using Google Slides

In class and for my personal use, I have created PDF "ebooks" using Google Slides. It's a simple method that can make attractive files that are easy to share.

There are essentially two steps:

  1. Make a slideshow in Google Slides. This will take the longest. And it can take a very long time depending on how attractive you want it to look and how many pages you'll be creating.
  2. Download it as a PDF. This takes about 10 seconds. Literally, it's just two or three clicks.
I made the tutorial for this process. It doesn't go into great detail about how to do the layout, but I show a few things briefly about the most important tools you'll use.

If you don't want to watch the entire thing, click the links below to open a new tab at that section of the video. I highlighted the two key ones for anyone familiar with Google Slides in general.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Win a Free Gift Certificate from Teachers Pay Teachers

I originally hoped to give away some review copies of my updated ebook, Creating Comics with G Suite Apps, but Teachers Pay Teachers doesn't have an easy way to do that.

So, I decided I'd give away three $10 gift certificates to their site and I'd simply ask the winners to consider purchasing and reviewing my (normally $4) ebook. Of course, if you win the drawing, you can use the $10 to buy whatever you want from the site.

To enter for a chance to win one of the gift certificates, you only have to answer one simple question about your plans for (or your questions about) tech activities in the upcoming year.

Click here to enter the drawing.

Please enter the drawing only once. I will draw three winners at random on July 21, 2017. If you win you'll be notified by email directly and I'll announce the winners in my next newsletter.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Resources for Sale

I'm taking some time this summer to update and upgrade some popular resources and put them on Teachers Pay Teachers.

First I added this free download about how to create recorded slideshows. I consider that to be an essential skill for teachers and students.

I also added the new version of my ebook about making comics with G Suite apps. That resource is based on my most popular conference session. It's a proven process that I've seen ignite a classroom as students discover the fun of creating. The normal price for the ebook is $4.00.

If you already have the free version I used to offer on this blog, you'll want to know I added a suggested rubric for the comics in the new edition. I also made some minor changes to the section about video projects.

If you have followed my work on my blog or elsewhere, I would greatly appreciate you at least downloading the free PDF about recorded slideshows and giving an honest review. That would help many other teachers discover them.