A few years ago it was suggested to me to use musical alarms for the beginning and end of class time together. Our school is a “No Bell” school beyond the beginning and end of our day. Yet the audio cues are important to me and my students. I found a Chrome Extension tool called “Cool Clock” that fits my need perfectly and has emerged as a major classroom management tool for staying on task.
I have “Cool Clock” set to go off at the beginning and end of class, playing the tv theme song from Friends. The length of the song is 43 seconds which works perfectly for the students and class to be reminded it's time to get ready for the instruction. This reminder extension has become part of my beginning of the year routines. The music encourages students to have their device closed and focus on our agenda screen for what learning lies ahead. It is slick and works surprisingly well.
I have created a short video on how to set up this Chrome Extension tool for your classroom. It is fairly fast, efficient and easy to turn on/off as needed with a modified schedule day. Here is the Setup Video for the Cool Clock Extension. I hope you find the same success in your room.
I so appreciate the many in my professional learning network who share their journey and experiences. The blogs, articles, and videos have assisted me in so many ways. I just don’t enjoy blogging and it doesn’t spark joy as I create each written entry. This is my inner struggle for most if not all of my blog posts. It’s time to do a better job.
What better way than to share my experience on a high school trip to Peru. We traveled with 31 students who were going into 9th and 10th grade, as well as 5 chaperones and one guide in Peru. The trip was through EF Education First Tours. I was in charge of the digital documentary for photos and videos. The learning experience was amazing, with postcard views from almost every vantage point.
I enjoy what tech does for me and as a thrifty person, I'm always looking for ways to stretch my funds with the tech tools I have. Here are the tools I brought with me in my backpack to Peru: Nikon 5000 DSLR Camera, Samsung Note 9, Snapchat Spectacles, Mini Tripod, USB Type C Adapter & Sony Headphones. Through coupons, deals, discounts and other means, I have less than $900 invested in my tech bag. I wanted share how I used these devices on our trip.
The Note 9 was at the center of my travel system. Capturing daily reflection videos, importing photos and videos. I uploaded all content to Google Photos in a shared chaperone album. One for photos and one for videos. It is always nice to have the peace of mind knowing the digital memories are backed up, just in case something happens to the device. I did use a type c dongle to upload photos from the Nikon 5000.
Video quality was very good with the Note 9. Autofocus was fast and student reflections were very easy to capture. The only downside was the internal microphone on the phone. It was fine in a quiet environment, but hard to hear if there was much background noise. I will get an external microphone for next time.
I used the Nikon 5000 for candid still photos. This has been a great camera for me, turning 10 in December. It does have a video capture option, but autofocus doesn’t work once recording has begun, thus videos often lose quality unless shooting distance stays the same. I found it interesting how a DSLR camera sometimes seems less intrusive than a smartphone. Over 500 photos later and the battery was still nearly full.
Snapchat Spectacles are nothing short of fun. The quality is very good and getting those in the moment shots are priceless. The captured images and videos upload seamlessly to my Snapchat app on the phone, then backed up to my Google Photos account. The case is the battery pack, which I never had to recharge in 8 days. The glasses would last 3-4 hours of use before needing a charge.
The mini tripod worked so well as a selfie stick, or for more stability while getting video reflections from the students. I used with both my phone or the Nikon. It was easy to pack for travel and sturdy as a tripod or selfie stick. The video stability feature on the Note 9 acted more as a gimbal, for smoother video.
Creating the final reflection video of our trip was surprisingly easy. I used the android app PowerDirector. Since it’s an android app, I could edit video on the Note 9 or my Chromebook. Before starting I used the Google Photos Movie Maker feature in the Google Photos app assistant. Easily taking up to 50 photos or videos, to create a short movie. This movie is automatically saved to my Google Photos account.
It was time to download video clips and created movies from Google Photos. PowerDirector made it easy to drag, drop and produce each movie. In all, I created 7 movies, totally 87 minutes in length. Finally upload each video to my G Suite YouTube account, in a Peru Playlist of our trip, to share with students and families. I’m a little low on creative juices, so these tools all helped me to be more efficient.
Feel free to contact me if you have question or comments on my tools or process. I'm so impressed with what we can do with the tools we have today. I'm very lucky to live in this exciting time of learning and sharing.
We are a Microsoft tools for teachers and Google Apps For Education tools for both staff and students in our district. There was a day when I was very vested in the MS Office Suite of tools. Then comes Google Drive, making document collaboration a much more user-friendly experience. Yet, teachers transitioned from MS Outlook client to the full Office 365 experience and that’s where we are at today.
I’ve heard so many great things about Microsoft Teams for teaching groups and PLC collaboration. I am part of a 3 teacher advisory team overseeing an 8th-grade leadership group of students. We created a group chat via SMS, which was OK. However, our conversations blended professional topics along with personal events. The combination made it difficult to find school business entries in a long SMS message thread.
While listening to Windows Weekly podcast on the TWIT network, they mentioned at various levels how great Microsoft Teams was and growing in popularity. It was already in our Office 365 tools, so we decided to take it for a test drive. It makes for a safe way to continue our school group chat conversations, with end-to-end encrypstion. Secure chat should be at the top of any school’s list as educators communicate sensitive student information on a regular basis.
After I created our team, we all downloaded the Microsoft Teams app for our phones. Two Android phones and one iPhone, we connected with ease. The chat feature was super user-friendly and we were all in right away. Then we created a Word document with our key Google Drive shared document links, for easy access. All seemed good, but not great yet.
Then I stumbled on a link to add Google Drive to our team. Super easy and now our journey took on a productive path. We were already using our Outlook Calendar for planning advisory events and school business. Our calendar planning was integrated with ease.
Yes, it's still early using this Microsoft tool and a new adventure for professional connected technology. Early reviews are very good for our small team. The Microsoft Teams usability is much easier than creating a new habit. I have to say I’m so fortunate to work with two very forward thinking educators, who were open to trying it. More to come later.
While traveling in Arizona my wife needed to visit the craft section of Walmart. Though I appreciate her skill and creative projects, this part of the store doesn't give me much energy or interests. I usually hit the entertainment area, then move to groceries. This is where my visit became interesting and nothing short of amazing.
This was a very large Walmart and a good long walk from 4K televisions to the grocery area. Since I was really wasn't shopping, I was walking and just taking it all in. People watching definitely is part of my walk. Often wondering what people do or where are they going as I observe. I'm sure they are thinking the same of me.
That is when I saw a young lady walking towards me way down the aisle. She caught my eye by how she was carrying herself while walking towards me, with a gate of confidence and very carefree. A huge smile on her face, with eyes that lit up along the way. I would guess she was in her low to mid 20's.
I'm always envious of people with those natural smiles, which includes their eyes. I was raised to be stoic and not to let people read me. Thus, the natural smile thing kind of passed me up. She was one of those people that would seem to give positive energy, carrying herself with humble confidence.
Meanwhile, I was having one of my conversations with myself of; what does she do? I bet she is one of those people who gives energy to those in her presence. Are you still in college? Were you born this way or is it part of how you were raised? There had to be a reason and I ran those options through my head. Her energy and upbeat style never came down.
Then we were getting closer together, making eye contact. I could never have the same smile, yet I grinned and said "hi". She returned the gesture and word, stopping in front of me. Then reached in her back pocket, returning with a playing card face down. Handed it to me and walked away. I paused, only looking at the back of the card, thinking how strange.
When I turned the card over, a little bit of me was changed forever. Initially, I saw the queen of diamonds. Then in written black marker "Thx 4 being you", with a smiley face at the bottom. I was astonished as I spun around, looking at her walk quickly away. I had so many questions, yet she was out the door and gone like that.
This person took a "Lo Tech" playing card and made a real "Hi Impact" on me. Passing on a small gesture of kindness, while I was asking myself, "Why Me". I had to find my wife to share my experience, to which she got choked up. Then telling my friends and later, my students. Her kindness has gained even more momentum and strength as I returned home, over 1,700 miles from that Walmart.
You guessed it, I have taken a black marker to an old deck of playing cards. My initial goal is to distribute the cards to those students and staff that are sharing kindness in the hallways. The responses have been that of puzzled at first, then a huge smile and a gracious “Thank You”.
I am so lucky to have interacted with that random lady from Arizona who shared the card with me. More important the reminder to raise my awareness of kindness that is present daily. There is so much good in everyday!
So many people young and old write really poor emails. We all know what it looks like when one of those emails arrives in our inbox. Poorly written emails don't get attention right away unless we have a connection or vested interest in it. What better time to teach my 6th graders the power of a well written email.
We start with learning the basic Gmail tools since we are a Google Apps For Education school. I like to start with a quick tour in settings or as I refer to it "Gmail under the hood". Gmail settings can be a confusing and overwhelming initial journey. Pick the settings tools you most often use to make your email experience effective.
The two settings tools I like to teach students about are the labels and signature. We create at least two labels, one for school announcements and another for academics. I compare setting up their labels to creating a plan of organization in Google Drive, which most learners have prior knowledge. Many students go beyond that, creating and personalizing their labels to be more specific to subjects, assessment, etc.
We alway have "Sincerely" or "Respectfully" yours to start their signature and then add their name. This is a good time to teach email security and when its safe to use their full name in emails. As well as NEVER have their home address or phone in the signature. Finally, don't forget to "Save Changes" at the bottom of the settings page.
It's time to add contacts to our address book. Contacts are no longer within Gmail, but a stand-alone location. We go to the Google Apps tiles in the upper right portion of the Gmail tab, then scroll down to "Contacts". I model how I add people who are in our GAFE school directory and then create groups. Students must add all of their teachers and add them to the group day they have them. We are on an A Day and B Day alternating schedule.
We are now prepared to learn the simple email tools for creating a professional academic email. Of course, it all starts with a clear, but brief subject line. Everybody can improve on making sure the subject contains what the recipient needs to create a click to open. 6th graders struggle with a subject line that is too simple or too much.
The email ALWAYS begins with "Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. Teacher", and which title goes with the surname. The body must have an extra line space between the salutation and the message. Since letter writing is not common practice, crafting the correct email format is challenging for students. Practice makes progress!
Now students create the body of the email by adding more depth and clarity to their subject line. The goal is to make the body clear and not too wordy. I tell students to "Get In" and "Get Out" with their message. Be clear, to the point, respectful and appreciative, since many student emails are asking for something.
Always proofread before sending. Looking for spelling and grammar errors as well as attempt reading it through the recipients perspective. Finally showing students they have 10 seconds to click the "Undo" after sending, to get the email back for modifications.
Our email assignment is to send a practice professional email to a current teacher. I send an email to teachers that we will be doing this assignment and most teachers reply with thanks or constructive support. This communication between students and teachers is very powerful.
Within the message, students state that this email is an assignment and a practice professional email. In addition, I tell students the great positive power they have with the email. The power is telling the teacher why they selected him/her for this assignment. There must be something the student likes about the teacher, class or both. Write that cool thing in the email.
Since this is an assignment, students must Cc me. I reply with feedback as needed. The power part of the message is so pure and beautiful from a 6th-grade perspective. The practice professional email assignment is truly a positive buzz for students and teachers. There are many meaningful ways to teach communication tools in our classrooms and this is but one.