Monday, July 20, 2015

10 Free Tools for Back to School for Teachers

Astute Hoot, a site, run by educators, that has reading and math strategy animals and accompanying books, hands-on tools, lessons, and graphic organizers, has a free download that has 10 template and sample files for teachers to help them get the new school year started a little easier.

The FREE Top 10 Tools for Back to School includes the following sample files:

1. Beginning of the Year Checklist
2. Golden Keys to Success Responsibility Chart
3. Golden Keys to Success Parent Brochure
4. Routines, Procedures & Transitions: Walking in line
5. Icebreaker Activity: Top 10 About Me
6. Common Core Reading Strategies Poster
7. Behavior Reflection Think Sheet
8. First Day of School Lesson Plan
9. Social Story--Following Directions
10. Parent Welcome Letter sample

Take a look.


Welcome Back! Some great resources to get your school year started


Mozilla Foundation announces some new, free educational resources

The Mozilla Foundation is a global nonprofit that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet. Their mission is to improve universal web literacy, or the ability to read, write and participate on the Web.

This summer, Mozilla is rolling out new, free tools and curriculum to help learners of all ages achieve web literacy.

Webmaker Beta is a free, open source Android app that allows smartphone users of any skill level to create original content online. Here is a blog post on Webmaker and you can download it here

Maker Party is Mozilla's annual global campaign to teach web literacy through hands-on learning. This year, from July 15 - 31, educators and students can use their curriculum and teach others how to read, write and participate online. Activities touch on privacy, HTML, collaboration and more. You can read more about it here.

It's very much a networked initiative: individuals and organizations (schools, libraries, etc.) can host and customize local Maker Parties. Visit the 2015 website for more information.

These are some great resources for schools to use to help teach web/digital literacy.

More resources:

10 Tech Skills Every Student Should Have

How to Evaluate Web Resources

Internet Safety Resources:


The Teachers Guild - Teachers who create new solutions for students and schools

The Teachers Guild is a really interesting new initiative with the goal to "Bring together teachers, just like you, to collaborate and solve 30 education challenges in three years. Building on each others’ ideas, we will amaze our students, schools and the greater system with a flood of new and better solutions designed by and for teachers."

It is an ambitious, worthy goal that has some great potential. Finally, someone sees the fact that teachers are the experts in education and need to be part of any project or reform that has to do with education.

David Harrington, from Google, has a great explanation on LinkedIn (read more at the link):

This is about an enabler, and it’s brand new this week.

It’s called The Teachers Guild, created by an innovation group that includes the world-famous design firm IDEO and Google. Both Ideo and Google use Design Thinking, a process that was created pre-1970, expanded in the 80's and 90's, and has now moved beyond the narrower definitions of design. Design Thinking has its roots withStanford University and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
However, this story is not just about Design Thinking, but about how a few original minds created something that scales globally and put it up in mere months. The Teachers Guild is a site, accessed by teachers around the world, that tackles the really big problems in education, bigger than how to deal with a state testing requirement or a piece of literature that’s been called inappropriate. For instance, their first challenge is how to encourage innovation in your classrooms.
During the stages of the Design Thinking process:
  • Teachers will submit ideas
  • Refine those ideas
  • Decide which ideas are best
  • Vote on which ones they will be attempting to implement.
It’s a fairly simple process to understand; that’s a necessity when you’re asking people to crowdsource around an idea. But the really amazing part is that when you use this tool, you are actually using the process we are trying to instill into our students. It works for both the teachers and the students.

All teachers should take a look at this, since every teacher has something to contribute. You can read teacher stories about things that worked for the, look at the current challenges and add your suggestions, read articles and research on education, and even post your own challenge and solutions.

There is a lot of great information on the site. Check it out!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Google Apps and Chromebooks for Special Education and Special Needs

Chromebooks and Google Apps are excellent assistive technology (AT) that help students with special needs access curriculum and information. Google Apps and Extensions in the Chrome Web Store provide many supports to students with learning challenges.

Chromebooks allow students to access curriculum while avoiding their triggers. Online curriculum and resources allow them to work without distraction, which lowers anxiety.

Chromebooks also allow students to access additional resources to support their learning and address their individual needs.

There are specialized web apps, screen readers, text-to-speech and speech-to-text, screen magnifies, curriculum resources, lesson ideas, collaboration tools and so much more.

The following links provide an overview of extension and apps available to support students with special needs.


  • Google Accessibility Features and Resources - resources about all of the accessibility features in all of Google’s products. The Google Products Accessibility site has a list of 18 Google Products with details and links about it's accessibility features.

  • Voice Recognition- Dictate using Google Chrome.  Type with your voice.  Dictation turns your Google Chrome into a speech recognition app.  Students can use Chrome as a voice recognition app and type long documents and essays without touching the keyboard.

  • SpeakIt!- Highlight text you want to read and listen to it.  SpeakIt converts text into speech so that students can access grade-level text even if they are reading at a lower level.

  • Calculators- Visit this Google Web Store page to view a variety of calculators from basic to graphing.

  • Dictionary- DIctionary and Thesaurus Apps and Extensions.

  • Typing Club- The highest rated free typing practice app in the web store.

  • Grammar Checker and Synonym Tool- The Ginger App helps students communicate better.  Students can correct and enhance their writing with support of this App.

  • Collaboration - Google Apps allows for collaboration and sharing so that students can share their work with their Special Ed teacher / Resource Teacher, who can assist remotely, comment, and support the students.
  • Google Classroom - allows teachers to manage classes, share assignments and student work, and to communicate with students. Teachers can share the assignments to their students, the students work on the assignment and submit it back, all electronically. Teachers can view and comment on the student work at any time. Co-teachers/Special Ed Teachers/Resource teachers can be added to the class so that they can also view the student’s work, allowing them track the student’s progress and offer help and comments, even when they are not physically with that student.

  • PowerUp WHAT WORKS - free online resources for struggling students and those with disabilities.


Google Apps and Chromebooks Web App Recommendations - a whole lot!

Technology I use on a Daily Basis - 2015 Version

In the past, I've written about the technology I use on a daily basis (see bottom of page for links).

Here's my updated version for Summer, 2015.

I'm a huge user of Google Apps and Evernote. They are my main work, and personal tools, and all of my devices work with them. Without these, I'm stuck. I also back them both up.

My personal smartphone is an HTC One M7 running Android. I love it. I can do anything on it - email, web browsing, Google Apps, Evernote, messaging, photos, musics, etc. I is my go-to device. I have an external battery for traveling, but the battery life is pretty good. It's also durable, as I've dropped it a few times and it's still here - no case either. I'm due for an upgrade next month, so I'm looking to see what I will get next. I'm thinking about the new Nexus 5 that is rumored, or the HTC One M9. I chose not to get a work smartphone so I didn't have to carry two devices around all day.

I have the same work and personal laptop - an HP Elitebook Folio 9470m with Core i5 processors and SSD drives. It's lightweight, powerful and works great. I use it at work with a docking station and two monitors. At home, I use my personal one for remoting into work, and some other tasks.
My travel device, and sometimes home use, is my Acer C720 Chromebook. I have the 4GB Ram version. It's light, has a great battery life, and does everything I need it to do, including work offline. I use it for travel, conferences and off-site meetings. I use it at home sometimes when I need to type. I have both my personal and work profiles on here, with offline Drive access for both setup. I also have the Evernote Android app for Chromebooks on it, with offline sync enabled.

My personal device that I use at home and on the road the most is my Nexus 7 (2013 ver). I love the 7" tablet size and use this for social media, web surfing, personal email (I don't check work email at home anymore), e-books and Netflix. I use it with my Bose headphones, which give incredible sound.

Google Apps - for both work and home. Email, Chrome, Calendar, Drive/Docs/Sheets/Slides, Keep, Blogger, Sites - these are my main tools for work and personal use. All of my files are in Drive, and backed up on my personal laptop. I also use a Google account at work with my files in Drive. I have two work accounts - one for work itself (K12 team uses it), and a GAFE account for working with customers.

Evernote - this is my other main tool - web clippings, receipts, manuals, project management, important info, contacts, reference material and more. I have the Evernote clipper installed on Chrome and in Outlook.

Outlook and Lync at work for email and instant messaging. I have my work email and Lync setup on my personal smartphone also.

Sites and services I use include Feedly feed reader, Pocket, LinkedIn, TweetDeck, Google+ and Facebook.

That's really it. I rarely use anything else and I have different tools for different things - work, home, travel, fun.

Take a look back at earlier versions of this post to see what has changed over the years based on my job and the tech available. I've definitely changed with the apps I use and have less hardware.


Technology I'm using daily as a School District CIO (2012)

Technology I use on a Daily Basis - updated for this year (Oct 2011)


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