Tip 17 – Explore!


Did you ever notice this little icon at the bottom right of your Google Doc, Sheets, or Slide Document?  Well, one little click on that guy can make both your life and your students’ lives a lot easier.

screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-11-28-19-amExplore in Docs makes researching and writing reports on the go a whole lot easier because you’re completing your research directly within your document.  Whether you’re writing about mobile retail trends or planning your next team offsite, you’ll get instant suggestions based on the content in your document. Google will automatically recommend related topics to learn about, images to insert and more content to check out in Docs on your Android, iPhone or the web. (1)

It’s helpful to refer to other content when writing an analysis, summary or proposal. That’s why we’ve also made it easy to find a related document from Drive or search Google, right in Explore. Less time spent switching between apps more time to polish your ideas. (1)DE-Docs-Final-Social.gif

Explore in Slides makes design polishing simple.  As you work, Explore dynamically generates design suggestions, based on the content of your slide.  Simply pick a recommendation and apply it with a single click — no cropping, resizing or reformatting required. (1)

Google says that they have seen that people save over 30% of the time they would have spent on formatting when they use Explore.  So even if design isn’t your style, rest assured you’ll have a beautiful presentation to be proud of.  Instantly. (1)

DE-Slides-Final-Social (1).gif

Explore in Sheets help you decipher your data easily, whether you’re new to spreadsheets or a formula pro.  Just ask Explore — with words, not formulas — to get answers about your data.  You can ask questions like “how many units were sold on Black Friday?,” “what are the top three items by sales price?,” or “what was the total cost of jackets last month?”  Less time crunching numbers + crafting formulas = more time to find key insights and use them. (1)

They’ve also added new formatting suggestions to help make your data pop.  Explore in Sheets is available on the web, Android and now on iOS, too! (1)


As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


  1. “Google Docs Blog: Explore in Docs, Sheets and Slides makes work a ….” 29 Sep. 2016, Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Tip 16 – Flip Your Classroom on it’s Head!

What if I told you that you could have more time with your students during the school day 635455476346463139_the.simpsons.s17e16.jpgto focus on their work and their learning?

What if I said that this time could be spent working with students individually or in small groups?

What if all this could happen and you would never have to get in front of students to give a lecture again?

If you answer in the affirmative to any of the previous questions then you just might be interested in flipping your classroom.

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.  Short video lectures are viewed by students prior to the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. (2)  You by no means have to be ready to completely flip your classroom in order to utilize today’s Tech-Tip.  Either way, Today’s Tech-Tip will certainly provide you with a very easy way to use your device to record videos for whatever reason you may choose.



Screencast-O-Matic is a handy tool for recording screenshots and sharing them with friends or colleagues for a number of different purposes.  With just a few clicks, you can start recording your screen, and once you’re satisfied with your video, you can download it directly from there. (1)

To start a recording, all you have to do is open the program, position the recording window, and press “Play.”  When your recording is complete, just hit “Done” on the small control bar located below the bottom margin of the recording window.  You can also Pause in the middle of a recording and then resume using these controls. (1)

When you finish a recording, you’ll automatically be taken to a preview screen where you can watch your recording and see what you think.  If you’re satisfied, there are several saving and publishing options listed along the right-hand side of the screen.  For instance, you can upload your video directly to YouTube or to the Screencast-O-Matic website, or you can save it as a video file to your computer in either MP4, AVI, FLV, or GIF format. (1)screenshot-screencastomatic-1.jpgScreencast-O-Matic is a handy utility, and its free version only has a few limitations.  The straightforward mechanics make it a snap to use for even the least computer-savvy, and direct publishing options give you a great way to share anything you need with students and colleagues.  The Pro version removes a small watermark on published videos and enables editing tools.  It costs $15 per year. (1)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


  1. “Screencast-O-Matic – Free download and software reviews – CNET ….” 15 May. 2015, Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.
  2. “Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms – Educause.” Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.

Tip 15 – Stop Typing That URL


That’s right.  No more typing that http stuff.  Don’t worry about whether it’s a forward slash or a backward slash any longer.

Anymore, sharing a link to a Web page with a student, co-worker, or a friend is as easy as copying and pasting the link into an email or text and hitting send.  If that person is seated close to you, it’s now even easier with Google Tone.


Google Tone turns on your computer’s microphone (while the extension is on) and uses your computer’s speakers to exchange URLs with nearby computers connected to the Internet.  You can use Google Tone to send the URL for any web page, including news stories, pictures, documents, blog posts, products, YouTube videos, recipes—even search results.  Any computer within earshot (including over a phone or Hangout) that also has the Google Tone extension installed and turned ON can receive a Google Tone notification. (1)

You need to be logged into your Google account to use Google Tone, and your Google profile name and picture will be displayed with the URL in a Google Tone notification. (1)


cnet-google-toneTo receive a URL with Google Tone, you have to have the extension loaded on your device.  Once the site has been sent, the user would simply click on the box that pops up on your screen (pictured on the left).  Google Tone may not work in loud spaces, over a distance, with a poor Internet connection, or on computers without a microphone or with a microphone incapable of detecting sound broadcast by Google Tone. (1)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


  1. “Google Tone – Chrome Web Store.” Accessed 30 Jan. 2017.

Tip 14 – Go Formative!

I’m not sure how much you can relate, but I can most definitely remember the anguish I would have when I walked into class and learned of tpop-quiz.pnghe “pop quiz” that I was about to undergo.  I never ever walked away from a “pop-quiz” and felt that I learned anything from that situation except that I did not enjoy being unprepared.

Formative assessments are not about gotcha-ing students.  They are about guiding where instruction needs to go next for each student.  We should use them frequently, while or after kids learn a new idea, concept, or process.  When you are on your way to the Big End Project (or summative assessment) and students have just learned a piece or a step toward the end, check to see if they’ve got it.

There is certainly not a shortage of online tools for distributing quizzes to students and watching their responses in real-time.  If you would like to avoid using the tired old quiz, check out today’s Tech-Tip for a few new ways to check for understanding. (1)


Formative is a free, web-based student response and assessment tool for the classroom.  After a tutorial, teachers can upload or create assignments that let students type, enter numbers, draw (with a mouse or their finger, depending on the device), upload an image, or answer multiple-choice questions.  Teachers can create classes (manually or by filling out a template spreadsheet) and then distribute their assignments to students through formative-assessmentsclasses (including Google Classroom) or via an access code.  Students can use accounts (which allows teachers to track their progress over time) or choose to respond without logging in.  Teachers can watch their students’ responses arrive in real time via the teacher dashboard, and teachers can send back grades (manually our automatically) and also send longer narrative responses in reply. (2)

After teachers create an account, they receive an automatically generated email from the company’s co-founder and CEO (who is a former teacher) with links to a step-by-step walkthrough and a page of YouTube tutorials. A blog linked from the developer’s website offers further assistance. (2)

The best feature of Formative is the option to create “show your work” type questions.  “Show your work” questions enables students to draw responses and or upload pictures as responses to your questions.  When you use this question type students will see a blank canvas directly below the question where they can draw and or type responses. (3)


The best part is…IT’S FREE!  Check out this short video for a bit more information.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!



Tip 13 – Alright, STOP. Collaborate and Listen!


giphy-3Alright, now that I’ve used Mr. Vanilla Ice to gain your attention, I would like to move right along to the topic of collaboration.

I was always looking for new and different ways to get my students to work together and use one another as resources in the classroom.  I do believe that encouraging students to reach out to each other to solve problems and share knowledge not only builds collaboration skills but leads to deeper learning and understanding. (1)  Today’s Tech-Tip provides you another tool to put in your belt that might help to get students working together. collaborate


CoSketch is a multi-user online whiteboard designed to give you the ability to quickly visualize and share your ideas.  Anything you paint, draw, or type will show up to all other users in the room in real time.  It’s basically like google docs with whiteboard tools.  It only takes one click to save a sketch as an imacosketch example.pngge for embedding on forums, blogs, etc.  The app runs in all common browsers without the need for any plugins, downloads, or installation. The best part is, it’s FREE! (2)

It’s easy to collaborate.  You simply invite others to collaborate by sharing the URL of the whiteboard.  You can change your nickname so that others can recognize you.  Tools are easy to use and require very little play to be comfortable.

The site includes a chat function. Be sure to caution students about appropriate use. Continuous monitoring by teachers is essential!

How can I use CoSketch?

I’m sure you have already thought of a few ways you could implement this in your class.  Some possible ways to use this could be…

  • Use pictures from a science lab or experiment to write information on the picture.
  • Have student groups collaborate to create a diagram of the steps in a process shown in a photograph.
  • Have students add annotations to art images or ad layouts, showing design elements and the path of your eye as you view the image.
  • Show math concepts using geometric shapes.
  • Create images as a group or use for tutorials.
  • Create artwork or use for brainstorming.
  • Have students create their own whiteboard as part of a research project.
  • Project the image on your interactive whiteboard or projector as you begin a unit or lesson or to recap the steps in a process with the entire class.
  • Collaborate with others outside the classroom as you create a community map or action plan together.
  • Encourage students to use this site to review or plan together. (3)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!



Tip 12 – Get Yourself Organized on the Web

If you ask me, there aren’t many things more important to teachers than time.  Time is the one commodity that we always seem to need more of but it seems impossible to find.

Time to

Time to grade.

Time to teach.

Time to spend with family and friends.

Time for yourself.

One way that I’ve found to save time is to become more organized, not only in my physical workspace but also in my digital workspace.  I am still that guy who as hundreds of websites that I’ve heard about from colleagues bookmarked so that I can go back and check them out when I have “time.”  Even when I get a chance download-2to visit those sites, the problem becomes how can I organize all these sites that I do visit?

Maybe you are experiencing a case of website amnesia  You can’t remember the address or if it is a .com, .org, or a .net site.  Maybe you’re perusing that LONG list of bookmarks you saved on your laptop to find that one site you know is within that list somewhere.  Never fear…Symbaloo is here!


Symbaloo is a customizable start page tool that lets users add all their most important websites in a format that is easy to use.  Your homepage, or “webmix” as Symbaloo refers to it, appears as clickable tiles with icons or logos to your favorite websites.  You can drag and drop items to organize them in a way that is convenient and practical for you.


With Symbaloo, you have all your favorite websites at your fingertips.  Symbaloo stores your bookmarks in the cloud so that you can access my favorite sites from any device in any place with an internet connection.  Hopefully, this Tech-Tip will save you at least a little time by helping to organize your online life. (1)

How can I use this for my class?

Webmixes can be created for a variety of purposes.  Elementary teachers can create a
webmix and color code sections for different subjects, or create one to use specifically in the computer lab.  Symbaloo’s colorful, picture-based interface makes it easy for our youngest students to access a website or Google Doc.  Imagine the increase in productive lab time if all they need to do is click on a tile to get to Starfall.

Secondary teachers can have subject-specific webmixes available for students to use in or out of school.  They can also make ones for specific tasks such as test-taking skills or applying to colleges.pasted image 0.png

Teachers embarking on the Project-Based Learning journey can create a webmix containing information that covers all of the eight Essential Elements.  Documents, forms, spreadsheets, and media can be put into a sequential arrangement to allow for more “in-depth inquiry” time and less “where is it?”

Special Education or Gifted teachers can have multiple webmixes (there is no limit) to differentiate their digital resources for the different levels they teach.  They can use Symbaloo as a remediation tool, an enrichment tool, or both!

Teachers who are Flipping or Blending their classrooms can create a webmix of step-by-step instructions, including video, to bring a lesson to your students’ homes.  This can be saved and edited as needed for different classes.

Flipped?  Blended?  PBL?  SOL?  EL? ESOL? Teachers can have webmixes for their own PD to share with their PLC.  Timely articles and websites can be collected ASAP to be used.

If you do not wish to reinvent the wheel, you can use others’ webmixes.  However, you must be very careful:  PLEASE CHECK EVERY SITE THAT WILL LINK TO YOUR WEBMIX!!  Use your professional judgment to check for curricular content and anything else that may appear on the site (ads, links, etc.).  Also, check each site’s “Terms of Service” to make sure students can use the site safely.

Share Your Webmixes

Once your webmixes are ready for use, you may share them with your students through embedding or linking.  Embedding allows you to place it on a Google site, where students can access your webmix immediately.  The link to the webmix can also be shared via Google Classroom or on a Google Doc.  Although tempting, do NOT have students create Symbaloo accounts.  They can access your webmixes without having to create one.  Symbaloo’s Terms of Service does not allow anyone under age 13 to create an account and requires parental permission account creation by children ages 13-16. (2)

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!


Tip 11 – Use Audio Recording to Boost Learning


In the classroom, I was always trying to find ways for students to get involved in quality discussions about their learning.  Teachers know of and implement many strategies to get students talking about their learning, from arranging desks for group work or organizing Think-Pair-Share situations.  Audio recording, where students record their own voices responding to prompts or an assignment, just might offer another way for students to talk their way through their learning.

Some ways you might want to use audio recording in your classroom are…

  1. Brainstorming: Before students start a research project, audio recording can speed up the brainstorming process. Although more fluent writers can quickly fill the page with possible topics and plans, hesitant writers may struggle to jot down even a few ideas. With audio recording, struggling students can focus on the creativity and thinking instead Photo 2013-04-16 8 37 01 AM.jpgof stressing over spelling errors. (1)
  2. Refining voice: Audio recording can help students listen for the tone and voice that can be tough for students to recognize, let alone control. For narrative writing, audio recording gives students a chance to hear the colorful comparisons or folksy interjections in their speech so they have a vision of voice to take to the page. After choosing a narrative topic, we might ask students to use audio recording as a step between brainstorming and drafting. Whether teachers choose more open questions or targeted prompts, audio recording gives students a chance to hear their own voices add drama through pauses, repetition, or startling comparisons. Audio recording is one step in the writing process that gives some students the confidence and ease they need to let their voice shine through their writing. (1)
  3. Practice & Revision: Even published authors read their writing out loud to check for errors or confusion. At times, we ask students to audio record themselves reading their work aloud as a way to hold students accountable for practicing this important revision step. When students play back their recording, they have a new tool for encountering their text and finding places to revise. With group work, audio recording offers a practice space before final presentations. For example, if students are working on integrating primary sources in a social studies class, audio recording can help them listen for appropriate source introductions. (1)
  4. Self-assessment: When students are self-assessing or reflecting on their strengths, or challenges, recording their thoughts instead of writing offers a space free of red pen marks. In audio recording, students can back up, self-correct, and restate as they think. We find that language learners are particularly fond of this approach: it’s a safer place to practice new vocabulary. Most students are already eager to talk about their experiences. With audio recording, they can complete the assignment in a medium with which many of them are already quite practiced and comfortable. (1)

Using the Chromebook for audio recordingdownload-7

SoundCloud  Soundcloud is very easy to use.  With one click you can start recording your own track.  You can also upload sound tracks you have saved on your computer.  Soundcloud also allows you to add comments to your audio tracks and share them with your students and friends. (2)


download-8Vocaroo  Vocaroo is another web-based tool that allows users to easily make audio recordings and share them with others.  Vocaroo does not even require a sign-up and to start recording your audio, just head over to Vocaroo main page, click on record and there you go.  Audio recording made by Vocaroo can be downloaded or shared using an embed code. (2)



Voice Recorder  Online Voice Recorder is a free simple application which records sound from microphone.  After recording you can trim the sound and save it to your computer. (2)


As always, if you have any questions or concerns about implementing any type of technology in your classroom, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly through email ( or by submitting a Technology Integration Ticket on the Talawanda Web Portal.  Have a great day!