Friday, December 27, 2013

Techno-lutions for 2014

So all year long you have been hearing about and reading about all the "nerd" things you should be doing...  Well with Y2K.14 just around the corner, here are 3 MUST MAKE AND KEEP technology resolutions...

1.  Get Evernote!  It will change the way you work.  If keeps everything (bookmarks, full web clippings, notes, Voice Memos, pictures) and lets you build web pages on the fly and search/organize your notebooks...  Works on all platforms: web, iOS, Android...FREE and easy!

2.  Get off a full OS... Try to do as much as you can from your mobile device (tablet or handheld) or Chromebook.  Many of use no longer need a full OS (Windows 7/8 or Mac 10.9).  Further you don't need Microsoft Office...  Most tools that you need to be productive exist on the web...for free!  Browser Based and App-centricity are the way to be... 

3.   Get out of the Dirt! Moving to the cloud has SOOOOO many advantages!   We don't have to (and shouldn't) keep all our files on our hard drive.  Too many people come to me with their damaged equipment and ask for help in recovering files from a damaged hard disk...  Using Dropbox, Drive or Skydrive are FREE and EASY ways to "keep a hot copy" somewhere besides your box.

btw, the best Police Album...

Becoming less dependent on the device in our hand lets us be more flexible with any device in our hand.

Here is to an exciting year full of who knows what's next...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Platforms for Today's Classroom

Google Apps for Education is a great (free) platform for creating, storing and sharing files that students and teachers can use to deliver curriculum.  There are some other great platforms to help teachers deliver and assess content to their students.

-MSOffice 365 (Choose A2) is a free suite of web applications that Microsoft has rolled out that looks and feels similar to the #GAFE platform.  Students and teachers can create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in addition to storing and sharing files.  Similar to gmail, Office365 gives an email/calendar option as well. is a free on-line assessment tool.  It is very similar to  Both allow teachers to create classes (ROOMS) and build quizzes.  The dashboard provides progress monitoring during a live quizzing event.  These are essentially student response systems and work great in a BYOD or 1:1 environment because they are APP and Web Browser based.

-Screenleap and Nearpod are free presentation tools.  These platforms broadcast the teachers screen to the student device screen.  Nearpod gathers metrics about the broadcast and captures your audience by asking them to submit their name or nickname.  Another great option in a BYOD environment because the experience works on ANY device...Apps, laptops and chromebooks.

-Edmodo is a "facebook-like" tool that lets the teacher share files, links and assessments (quizzes and polls).  Teachers build classes and students can securely access content.  Edmodo has been around for a while, but continues to improve the interface and experience for the user.  Again, free and works on all devices...

-Remind101 and Sendhub let teachers send group text messages to students and parents without revealing the actual smartphone numbers of the sender of the receivers.  This free service is only using TXT, so even non-smartphones can play.  Celly is a new platform that goes beyond the simple one way text message, but allows for conversations to happen...

-Dropbox, Box, Skydrive, et al... Cloud storage of course is a foundational tool for classrooms.  BTW, FREE.

-URL Shorteners like and let you make long web address small for easy sharing. lets you create a collection of URLs and it shortens that collection into one tiny link for students to access.  Guess what? All Free...

-Evernote is an awesome tool for being organized and productive.  Both teachers and students can use  this free, "work on any device" application to create text notes, audio notes, webpages and web clippings. If you have not tried Evernote, get it today!

-Social media sources such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook create conduits for sharing and connecting...

The only other thing that teachers need to complete the package here is the Camera App on their tablet, smartphone or laptop and YouTube...  Essential for creating podcasts to deliver content (i.e. flip that lecture) and to let students create video for the teacher to assess.

All the tools here let todays classroom be a connected space where students can collaborate, communicate thru social media, be creative and create products that reflect their understanding of curriculum.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Annotating PDF (et al) files on your Chromebook

As you know I am a BIG fan of Chromebooks... (900 on the ground at Coal City Schools...).

I want to take a posting to talk about annotating PDF, Word and PPT files with a great FREE site called crocodoc.

This site works really well with your Chromebook.  You DO NOT need an account to use it, but if you set one up, it gives you extras like file listings and larger file uploads.

The trick here is uploading a file to them by browsing to your "downloads" area on your Chromebook or selecting the file from your Google Drive (I prefer this option).

Once uploaded you can Draw, Comment (sticky note), Add text, highlight, and strike thru with the tools they provide.

Account (or not) you can Share the marked up file by using the SHARE button...

It will send a link to others, email the marked up file, or give you the code to embed into your blog or website.

You can also share files and folders from the Directory... 

You can also DOWNLOAD the original file or the marked up file...

This a great tool, easy to use and works with Mac OS, Win OS and ChromeOS (Chromebooks and ChromeBoxes).

Now, the WHY...

Sometimes you want students to be able to annotate (markup) a file...maybe its a PDF worksheet, a WORD document or an image (say a Map or Diagram).

They can upload the document from you (Share it into their Google Drive, or send them a DROPBOX link that they can download, then upload).

Once in their Crocodoc, they can mark it per your direction... for example, identify features of the map, find and correct grammatical/syntax errors, fill in the blank with the TEXT tool, etc.

Easy and Free -- great things to be!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Coal City students and teachers are off to a great start! (And the 21st time now I am back to school...)

This year we are starting with the largest number of student devices on the ground ever!  More than 300 iPads at grades K-4 and more than 900 Chromebooks grades 5 through 12.  Fifteen classroom 6-12 that are 1:1 Classrooms, and many mobile carts that teachers can use to enhance and support instruction.

We are continuing to build Today's Classrooms as a place where collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking are taking place while delivering a Common Core curriculum.

At the same time, teachers are focusing on  the Danielson Framework to refine their skills as high quality instructors.

We are excited about the potential of the school year ahead of us!

We are striving to improve communication with parents and the community through our social media channels and website.  Please take a look at our Twitter and Facebook streams, & follow / like our staff to be connected to Coal City Schools this year!

Check out our website at for resources and information!