Friday, December 19, 2014

Google Updates and Improves its Learning Center for Teacher Training

Google has updated and improved its Learning Center for Teacher Training with new use cases and best practices, making it even more useful and easier to learn about Google apps.

The site has some great resources and training for:

  • Android Tablets for Education
  • Calendar
  • Chrome
  • Chromebooks
  • Classroom
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Docs Suite
  • Docs
  • Drawings
  • Drive
  • Forms
  • Gmail
  • Google Maps
  • Google Play for Education
  • Implementing Google Apps
  • Search
  • Sheets
  • Sites
  • Slides
  • YouTube

Each topic has an introduction, basics, and advanced sections depending on your level of experience with that app.

There are lessons, case studies, examples and best practices, and ways to connect with other educators.

It is an excellent resource for all educators

Google Inbox - a replacement for your email with some new features

Google's Inbox is there new email client that has a different layout and different ways to handle emails. I've been using it for a while now and love it.

Your emails are bundled by category (Promos, Purchases, Social Media, Travel and others) to keep them organized, you see each email at a glance in the main page, you can snooze an email (reminder for later) and pin emails to make sure they stay put if they are important. In addition, you can mark emails as "Done" which moves them into a different folder, but doesn't delete them, so you can still search for them. 

You can even set reminders for tasks at the top of the inbox - no more separate task list (this is new). There are also "assists" that help you remember what you need to do with that task and gather information related to the task (like your confirmation email, person's phone number, etc.) You can read more about these new features here:

These features are great for educators too - sort emails easier, snooze an email to work on later, set reminders, and more. 

You can read more about it and request an invite here:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Aviary Photo Editor Acquired by Adobe

Aviary, the popular web based (and mobile app) photo and imaging editor has been acquired by Adobe.

Aviary's site has the announcement front and center and there is a full press release from Adobe.

I've used Aviary for years and loved it, especially for capturing images online and editing them for use in this blog.

The press release from Adobe says that they acquired Aviary to help them "Accelerates Delivery of Mobile Apps that Integrate with Adobe Creative Cloud". They also state that "This is great news for developers because thousands of mobile apps will have the opportunity to become compatible with industry-defining desktop tools like Photoshop CC, as well as new Creative Cloud services."

There is no information on what will happen with the current portfolio of free Aviary apps. Hopefully, they will stay free and just get better.

Analog (ie paper) resources that work with digital

Not everyone likes to, feel comfortable, or can go completely paperless. Some like the feel of paper. Sometimes it's easier to take notes on paper. Sometimes, digital equipment isn't allowed in an area. Whatever the reason, there are some great paper-based resources that work with digital.

I often share tips and resources for getting organized and have shared some paper-based solutions in the past.

Here are some tips/resources that are paper based or similar:

1. plain old paper - yup, plain old paper is still around. You can easily take notes, sketches and more with any notepad and pen or pencil. Want or need it digital? Just take a photo of it with your smartphone or scan it. You can also use paper based organizers and do the same thing.

Evernote Planner

2. Moleskin Notebooks - these are specially made to work with Evernote and your smartphone camera. Write in the notebooks and then take a photo of it with the Evernote app and your notes are now in Evernote. You can make them private, share, tag and more with them.

3. Livescribe Pen - write with the special pen on the special paper and capture your notes digitally. The WiFi version automatically syncs over WiFi. I love mine and sync it to my Evernote account. No WiFi where you are? No worries, the data is stored in the pen and can be synced to your computer later. This is a great compromise for using paper while saving the info digitally. You can also record audio with it.

4. Boogie Board - the Boogie Board is an electronic pad that allows you to write on it with a stylus and then erase it. There are also models that let you store what you write and sync it to your computer. I use the basic model for quick notes at home and the Sync model for notes at my desk (instead of using post-its). I can then save the notes if I want by syncing it to my computer (and my Evernote account) or via Bluetooth to my smartphone. Nice for quick notes and meetings.

There are a variety of ways to capture information - use what works for you.


Tips and Resources for Getting Organized

Getting Students and Teachers Organized - includes some tips for paper based systems

Evernote for Education Resources

A great comparison of Chromebooks vs Windows

I'm a huge believer and user of Chromebooks in education. Even with the huge popularity of Chromebooks, there are still a lot of people who don't understand them or think that they can't do a lot of things.

I found a great article that compares Chromebooks vs Windows, explores the claims and misconceptions and is a great resource for anyone thinking about Chromebooks. Many people don't realize how powerful Chromebooks are and how much they can really do.

Microsoft has a bunch of cheap laptops coming out from different manufacturers (around $200) to compete with Chromebooks. People may be swayed to buy them - I recommend against it. They are underpowered and will not perform well.

Chromebooks vs. Windows - The Real Story
The article is setup with a nice column structure and explains each point. I highly recommend taking a look at this.


Chromebooks - definitely awesome for education

Google Apps and Chromebooks resources for Education

Prezi - the zooming presentation tool - gets mobile presenting features

Prezi is a very cool presentation tool that allows you to create zooming presentations with images, text, video and animations. It has a thriving educational community and is easy to use.

Prezi has just announced Mobile Presenting. With this, you can deliver and watch the presentations in real time. It is currently only available on iOS and web (ie laptops), but I'd imagine the feature will come to Android soon.

Your audience (students) can follow along on their own device and stay in sync with where you are in the presentation. You can share with up to 30 people at a time and it is as simple as selecting "present remotely" and sharing the link it generates.

I use Prezi for certain presentations. I like it because I can be more creative than with PowerPoint or Google Slides for some things.

Acer has some new Chromebooks coming

chromebook  Acers Chromebook Plans for 2015: A Rugged Broadwell Powered Chromebook and One with a 15.6 Screen

According to this article, Acer has some nice new Chromebooks coming in early 2015. My district has around 6,000 Acer C720 Chromebooks and they are great - fast, powerful, relatively sturdy and a great price. These new ones sound even better. I'm a huge believer of Chromebooks as an technology tool that works great in schools.

The first one is the Acer C740 which is supposedly going to be a rugged Chromebook with Intel's 5th gen Broadwell processor with a starting price of $259 for 2GB RAM/16GB SSD and $279 for the 4GB RAM/16GB SSD. I recommend 4 GB of RAM. The rugged features are a huge plus for education. There will also be a 32 GB SSD option, it will have AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4, USB 3 an SD Card Reader and HDMI out wiht a 8.5 hour battery life.

In addition, the article states that Acer will introduce a 15.6 inch Chromebook with the same specs as the C740. This is great for those wanting a larger screen.

Both are great news for the education market. Keep and eye out for more information on these and other new Chromebooks.

Some Great Chrome Apps for Chromebook Classrooms

Holly Clark has a great article with some great apps for Chromebook classrooms. It has an interactive image of the apps. As you hover over the app icon, it gives short description. Click on it and it takes you to the Google Play page so you can install it.

There are some great apps here. Take a look and see what might be useful for you and your students.

There are also some other great resources on her site.


2014 was a banner year for Google Docs, Slides, Forms and Sheets

Google is known for providing constant updates to it's products. In a post on the Google Drive Blog, Google summarizes some of the updates that they did to Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms over the last year. It's pretty impressive and made these products much more useful, especially for Google Apps and Chromebooks users.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Work with any file - this was huge - now you can open and edit Office Files in Docs, Sheets and Slides which was great for Chromebook users.
  • Editing images directly in Docs, Slides and Drawings - great for people like me who insert images a lot. Now I don't need a separate image editor for basic edits. 
  • Updated mobile apps to make working with your files easier while on the go
  • Tables in Docs and updates features in Slides
  • Improved screen reader, text-to-voice and keyboard navigation across all the products. 
  • Improvements in the backend to make the apps work better and faster.

Google Translate adds 10 more languages.

Google Translate adds 10 more languages, bringing the total to 90 supported languages.

This is great news for education - with so many ESL/ELL students in our schools, Google Translate can help them learn English, as well as provide resources for them and their families in their native language.

The 10 new languages supported by Google Translate include:



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bioman Biology - The Fun Place to Learn Biology

Bioman Biology

Bioman Biology is a site I just found out about from my wife, who teaches Biology. The site was created by a Biology teacher and has games and virtual labs that teach students concepts in Biology. It is standards based, interactive, and free.

There are games, simulations and virtual labs for the following areas: Body Systems (Physiology), Cells, Ecology, Evolution, Classification, Genetics, Meiosis, Life Chemistry, Respiration, Photosynthesis and Scientific Methods.

There are also quizzes for each area available and a teacher section to help teachers use the site to it's fullest.

The activities are fun and educational.

More Biology Resources:

Chromebooks - definitely awesome for education

Back in May of 2012, I wrote about Google Chromebooks and how they were great for education. Two and a half years and 11,000 Chromebooks later, I stand by this even more.

Our district has over 11,000 Chromebooks deployed in grades 3-12. We also have a high school using Windows laptops.

Here's why I recommend Chromebooks:

  1. inexpensive - average cost, with laser etching, Chrome management and setup is around $310 per device. Compare to around $600-$900 for comparable Windows laptop and around $600 for an iPad with keyboard. 
  2. Performance - I use an Acer C720 Chromebook with 4GB RAM (we have thousands of these in district) and the performance is excellent - very fast, even with multiple tabs open.
  3. You can do anything - there is a web app to match pretty much any software and they even work offline and you can now run some Android apps on them. You can also view, edit and create Office documents right inside Google Drive on a Chromebook. 
  4. Work for testing - they are compatible with PARCC and SBAC.
  5. Easy to deploy - we got them pre-enrolled in our domain and setup in the carts. All we had to do was deliver the cart to the school.
  6. Easy to manage - a thousand times easier to manage than laptops or tablets. Everything happens in the Admin Console, which is very easy to use. 
  7. Easy to support - most problems are fixed with a simple reset (takes 10 seconds). If that doesn't work a factory wipe and re-enroll often fixes the issue (about 10 minutes). If that doesn't work, send it back to the manufacturer. 
  8. Easy to use - teachers and students need little training to use them.
  9. Google Apps for Education - great apps that work perfectly with Chromebooks.
  10. Resources - websites, communities and resources galore for using Chromebooks in the classroom. And Google provides excellent support. 
Chromebooks aren't for everyone or every application. For instance, they can't run PowerSchool's Gradebook app (it's still based on Java) and online CAD programs are limited. But, they are a great device for most education (and business and personal) use. I even recommend Chromeboxes as desktop replacements.

If you are interested in learning more about Chromebooks and Google Apps in Education, I am available for consulting about selection, deployment, setup and training and use. 


Illustrate - Word Quiz - free English quiz app on iOS and Android

Illustrate - Word Quiz is a free English quiz app available on iOS and Android. It uses illustrations and videos for each question to help students understand, retain, and stay focuses. It is a fun way to learn English and is useful for ESL and EFL programs.

illustrate - Word Quiz - screenshotillustrate - Word Quiz - screenshotillustrate - Word Quiz - screenshot

There are multiple topics and levels for a variety of student levels and the topic list is constantly updated. The more you play, the more topics that become unlocked to access.


* illustrations and videos for all questions
* Fun and interesting topics
* Increasing levels of difficulty
* Unlock brand new topics based on your performance
* View your performance and track rankings

It's free, easy to use, and fun. I had a blast playing with it. 

It's free and available on iOS App Store and Google Play:

iOS App Store:
Google Play Store:

K12 Blueprint - great resource for technology in education


K12Blueprint is a great resource for technology in education. There are toolkits with information and resources for developing and deploying technology initiatives, information on choosing the right device for your schools, software and apps, curriculum, news, research, and blogs from educators and edtech leaders. The information and resources are timely, relevant and easy to use.

Here are the list of toolkits:

There are a ton of resources and information on this site - take a look around and see what it has to offer.

It is sponsored by Intel Education, Tech&Learning, and Clarity Innovations.

Disclosure: I am a Tech&Learning TL Advisor and blog for them, write articles for them, and  present at TechForum events. 


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