Friday, March 6, 2015

You can now perform calculations and conversions right in the Chromebook app launcher

This is pretty neat. I've used the Google Omnibox to do calculations and conversions but never knew you can also do it right in the Chromebook app launcher.



You don't even have to open a browser tab. Just type in the conversion or calculation and the answer will show up right above the suggested searches.

Another great feature of Chromebooks for students and teachers.

Image source: 


Collaborize Classroom - collaborative education platform with lots of features for teachers and students

Collaborize Classroom is a "free collaborative education platform for students and teachers" that allows teachers to create an online community. Teachers can create study groups, collaborative work groups, online discussions and much more.

There is a great resource section and professional development page to help you get started and learn to use it. There is also a Collaborize Classroom Topic Library, where you'll find thousands of topics that have been created by other educators that you can use.

It is easy to use, secure and password protected, and allows for discussions, online quizzes/surveys, discussion forums, projects and more. You can attach files, link to other sites, create groups to organize students and their assignments, gather and analyze student data and much more. 

This is a great resource for teachers.


PDFs - lots of tools and resources for working with them

PDF, or Portable Document Format, files are ubiquitous these days. The format is a great way to share files since every operating system, including mobile devices, has free software available to read the files. Creating these files, manipulating them, marking them up, editing them, and converting them to other formats are all needed activities for many people. Here are some great resources to use with PDF files.

Some PDF Readers:

Adobe Acrobat Reader - - read pdf files.

Foxit Reader - - read pdf files.

Evernote Logo
Evernote - PDF files that are attached to notes in Evernote are viewable directly in the note. You can also annotate them using Evernote. This is my favorite way to handle PDF files because I can view them directly in the note, add my own notes, comments and other attachments in the note, and I can annotate the PDF file.

Google Apps and Google Chrome can also display PDF files and you can download Docs, Sheets, and Slides files as PDF.

Google Apps, the free service from Google, can view PDF files. Another nice feature, is that if you upload a PDF file to Google Docs, you can have it convert text from a PDF into a Google Doc. It will extract the text but not individual images.

Creating the PDF file is very simple. I create the original file using a word processor or presentation program and then convert it to a PDF file using CutePDF Writer. CutePDF Writer is a free utility that installs onto your computer like a printer. You create your original file and then “print” it. Instead of selecting your printer, you select “CutePDF.” The software will convert the file to PDF form and ask you were you would like to save it. You can also use it to “print” any file, including web pages, to a PDF file. I use this often to save web articles for reading later.

There is also a free application available that allows you to merge multiple PDF files into one PDF file.

Quick PDF tools is a great resource. The software is easy to install and very easy to use and the website has easy to follow instructions. You simply select the PDF files you want to merge in Windows Explorer, right click, select QuickPDF tools, and select merge. You can then order them in the window in the order you want them merged, and then select merge. It is really that easy.

PDFtoWord is a free site that converts PDF files into Word documents.

This comes in handy when you have a PDF file that you need to edit and change and you don't have the proper, and expensive, software.

It's very easy to use. Go to the site, select a file from your computer to upload and convert, and enter an email address where you want the Word document sent. That's it.

I used it to convert a 9 page, 3MB PDF file and it took about 15 seconds to upload. The converted file did not show up in my email inbox until later that evening. (it was graphic intensive too).

The converted file was pretty accurate with almost no errors, which I manually fixed in a few minutes. The quality of the conversion was really good.

Remember also that it will not be able to convert a file that was only an image, like a file that was scanned. It will simply put that image as an image in a Word file.

This is really handy for taking files that were created with a print conversion (like CutePDF) or from Acrobat and making them editable in Word. If someone created the PDF file by scanning a document, this will not convert it back since the scanning process converts everything into one image.

It's not bad for free. You definitely don't want to use this if you need the file converted immediately. You will want to plan ahead due to the delay in getting the file converted and the fact that you may have to do some manual editing of errors.

PDF Online is an online service that has both fee and FREE services relating to PDF files.

One of the free services is "Doc2PDF" that will convert a document to a PDF file. You can only convert files up to 2GB (to convert files up to 10GB you need to subscribe to the premium version).

This is good for people who don't convert many files to PDF. If you want to convert a lot of files to PDF, I suggest CutePDF.

The other free service is "PDF to Word" which converts your PDF documents to RTF Documents for viewing and editing Word. It works very well and fast. After uploading your file, it will convert it and then leave a link for you to download with the converted file.

Another way to do this is with PDF2Word.

Free My PDF is a very useful site for those of us that deal with PDF files a lot. Many PDF files that are unlocked (you can open and read them) sometimes have restrictions on printing or copying text from the file. Free My PDF can remove those restrictions.

It is very easy to use. Go to the site, select the file you want modified, and click "Do It". You will then be able to download the unlocked file.

If you need a password to view the PDF file, you can not use this service. It also can not be used for illegal or immoral uses. In other words, you can't use this to violate copyright laws or take someone else's work.

Sometimes, these copy and print restrictions are in a file completely by accident because the person creating the file forgot to change the settings. Other times, you simply need to print or copy something for your own use. For example, a PDF file from a financial institution to me, with information about my account, would not let me copy or print. I wanted to copy part of it for my own records and print a hard copy for easy reference. I used Free My PDF to do that. No laws or ethics violated.

Here is the legal info at the bottom of the page:

An important note: There are many valid reasons to want to remove a password from a PDF (Ask your favorite lawyer about copyright and fair use, or Google it), but there are also many bad and illegal reasons. YOU MAY NOT USE THIS SERVICE FOR ILLEGAL PURPOSES. You also should not use this service for immoral puposes (it's not always the same). The owner of this site takes NO RESPONSIBILITY for the files processed on the site or generated by it, or anything else related to your usage (legal, technical or otherwise). Use it at your own risk.
The writer of this blog also takes no responsibility for your use of Free My PDF.

So, there are a lot of great resources for creating and utilizing PDF files. PDF files are great to use because anyone can read them without needing any special software.

And here are lots more PDF Resources.


explain3D - 3D animations that explain how things work

Cover art

explain3D is an app, available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, that uses 3D animations to explain how things work. It is not free (under $2 for each version) but is a great resource for educators.

Explain 3D: How stuff works - screenshot

Explain 3D: How stuff works - screenshot

Simulations (20) include:
  • Car workshop – 4 stroke engine, Car clutch, Manual transmission, Disc brakes, Ignition system
  • Discover the Universe – ISS space station, Space shuttle, Solar system
  • Electricity around us – Hydroelectric dam, Wind turbine, Nuclear power plant
  • Transport simulations – Railroad switch, Submarine, Jet engine
  • Our homes – Lock and key, Elevator, Toilet, Desk Lamp
  • Tools – Jackhammer, Hand pump
They are well done and explain the concepts well.

Here is a video explaining the app:

Versal - create online interactive lessons

Versal is an app that allows you to create online interactive lessons. These can be individual assignments or full courses.

It's easy to use and there is a lot of features. And, Versal has partnered with Wolfram Alpha to allow content from Wolfram to be used in Versal.

There are lesson ideas, materials and excellent training and support materials.

Teachers can use this to create interactive lessons vs static images and really create engaging materials.



Wolfram Alpha and Wolfram resources


Google CS First - free program to teach students programming

Google CS First is a free program with curriculum and resources to from computer science clubs for kids ages 9-14. It can also be used in school. It has a lot of resources and themes, including Music & Sound (create a music video and build an interactive music display), Fashion & Design (build fashion-themed apps), Storytelling (create interactive stories), Game Design (code a game), and so on.

Materials include videos, lesson plans, tips and programming in Scratch and are easy to find and use. This is a great way to get students interested in programming and computer science, and also a great way to get them thinking critically and creatively.


Lesson plan pages:

Education on Air - free online educational conference from Google

Google has just announced Education on Air, a free online conference for educators on May 8-9, 2015. This is free, online conference is for educators and is being presented by educators, and some students. The theme is exploring the future of education and technology

The conference will provide an opportunity to:
Reflect on and discuss how we can create an education system that prepares students for our always-changing world
Learn new ideas from people in various roles across education, including students
Get tips and tools from educators who have boosted student engagement, collaboration and productivity using technology and innovation
You won't even have to leave home to attend. You can take part right from the comfort of your computer, at no cost.
Register for Education on Air today.

Day 1: Leading the future
On Friday, May 8 from 10am-3pm EST, hear from educators, students and business leaders on the topic of leadership in education. Short keynotes and panels will help answer the question “how do we prepare our students for a future that is ever-changing?” Topics will include creating student ownership, leading change and fostering innovation in schools.

Day 2: Shaping the classroom today
On Saturday, May 9, join any of the 90+ sessions, run by educators for educators and held throughout the day across time zones. These sessions are designed to help you immediately in your school. We’ll have tracks for four groups: teachers, leaders, IT and general interest. Topics will include supporting literacy in early learners, successful device deployment and empowering digital citizens.

Even if you can’t attend on the scheduled dates, do register to stay informed. We’ll share the conference schedule and list of speakers in April. We’ll also be recording the sessions, so you can check out anything you missed.

More information is coming about specific sessions too.

These are always excellent events, so register and join us.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

MathX - browser based, easy to use equation builder

MathX Logo

Demonstranda has developed a new browser-based equation editor, MathX, that makes typing math easier and faster than other technologies. 
Demonstranda is evolving math and science from pencil to pixels. This means every time a student, teacher, tutor, or engineer writes a paper, takes notes or a test, sends an email or text, or creates a presentation with mathematical or scientific content, they will be doing so electronically, using our technologies. Having this content in digital form will fundamentally change the way the world learns and collaborates in maths and sciences.

MathX is a simple, elegant, easy-to-use equation builder that does not require coding or clicking. It's easy to use and will make it easier for math and science students and professionals to use technology with their equations.

You can download the free chrome extension or go to to check out the editor and start creating equations like this:

The Chrome extension lets you quickly build equations and drag+drop the resulting expression into Google Docs, making it really useful for students and teachers.


Also check out their YouTube channel for short videos on how to use MathX

Photomath math equation app now available for Android

Google Apps and Chromebooks Web App Recommendations - a whole lot! Includes a lot of math web apps halfway down the page.

DropTask - Visual Task Management app

DropTask Logo

DropTask is a free visual task management app that is web based and available on iOS and Android. It is easy to use and lets you create a visual to do list that is color coded and with lots of features. You can take notes, chat with others, attach files, set reminders, work with others, and more. It is a very beautiful interface with drag and drop functionality.

DropTask - Access everything in one place
It also works with other apps, like Google Apps and Dropbox, with Evernote and Outlook integration in Beta versions now.

The Evernote integration is slated to go public very soon and looks pretty cool. Integration with Evernote allows you to send your notes from Evernote into DropTask where you can organize and manage your to-dos. Alternatively, if you have a task already in DropTask, you can send it to Evernote and create a new note where you will have the space to write down all your ideas and information related to that task.

DropTask Integrations: GMail, Google Tasks, Google Calendar, Dropbox, iMindMap

The free version has tons of features with the Pro version, at $6.50/month, adding more features, including more syncing with other apps and more collaboration tools. You can compare features between the two here.

Try it out and see if it can help you get organized. 

Here is a video about it:


Get Organized - tips and resources for students, teachers, admin and more

kanban2go - free visual task management and organization

Edmodo releases Parent Apps to help Parents help their children

Edmodo is a free learning management system that is very popular and easy to use. Edmodo is a great resource for teachers, students, and parents, allowing communication, collaboration and sharing. It has forums, messages, files, calendar, and more to create an online presence for your class.

Edmodo recently released the Edmodo for Parents app for iOS and Android to allow parents to receive your important announcements and stay on top of classroom due dates. This allows parents to be more connected to the classroom and teacher, as well as being able to better help their children.

Edmodo for Parents - screenshot thumbnailEdmodo for Parents - screenshot thumbnailEdmodo for Parents - screenshot thumbnailEdmodo for Parents - screenshot thumbnailEdmodo for Parents - screenshot thumbnail


Resources for Using Edmodo in the Classroom


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why Should Schools go with Google Apps and Chromebooks?

I'm a huge fan and user of Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks and have written about them at length here. Here is a generic version of what I presented as reasons why my district should Go Google that you can use in your own school/district.

Why Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks:

Here are some of the reasons why Chromebooks make sense in education:

Educational Goals:
  • Increase student engagement 
  • Expose our students to the latest technology - software and hardware
  • Create student centered learning environments
  • Allow students and teachers to do new things, work collaboratively and create projects
  • Prepare our students for the transition to online testing as we move toward Common Core State Standards implementation
  • Provide equitable access to computers to all students (1:1)

Here are some videos and resources explaining Google Apps and Chromebooks in Education:

Educational Benefits of Chromebooks and GAFE:
  • Fast boot time – 5-6 seconds - They boot up in less than 8 seconds and resume instantly -- eliminating the typical down time wasted while traditional computers start up and connect to a network.
  • Applications, school work, and settings are stored in the cloud, so multiple students can use the same Chromebook and still have their own personalized experience when they sign in. 
  • The Google Applications are free for student use; such as Google Docs (word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation).
  • Allows for easy student and teacher collaboration and feedback.

IT Benefits of Chromebooks and GAFE:
  • Web Based Management
  • Reduced setup time
  • No programs to install – all student work will be saved in the “cloud”
  • No viruses and very secure
  • Updates are automatic and often
  • Easy to use - minimal IT support needed.*Inexpensive - allows more devices to be purchased

Features of Google Apps for Education
  • Free
  • word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, sites, networking, collaboration, and lots more
  • (including Word, PowerPoint and Excel files)
  • students can access their files from any device
  • students can share their work with their teachers
  • students can collaborate with others on the same project at the same time
  • unlimited potential
  • safe (management of GAFE and Chromebooks)
  • allows students to create projects, instead of just consuming information

  • Cost - 1/3 cost of a laptop
  • 1/10th the setup time
  • less IT support needed, automatic updates, 
  • easy to use, fast, light
  • start up in 7 seconds
  • battery lasts 6.5 hours or more (8+ hours for some)
  • thousands of free web-apps available
  • internet based - student data is stored online and accessible from any device
  • works with digital resources we already use
  • Research shows that technology-transformed interventions improve learninge
  • Allow for collaborative, project based lessons and learning
  • Technology based, online collaboration and personalized instruction helps with student engagement and learning

Huge User Base
  • Over 30 Million Google Apps for Education Users 
  • 180 Countries
  • 74 out of the top 100 Colleges in the US, including 7/8 Ivy League schools, use Google Apps.
  • over 2400 school districts in the US use Google Apps.

Editor's note: This guest post was contributed by +Rich Kiker, the top-rated Google Certified Trainer and founder of Kiker Learning.

Educators should demonstrate certain traits to effectively serve today’s learners. Google Apps for Education gives us a virtual landscape where educators can deploy these traits anytime and anywhere. We have extended our educational tools to include Chromebooks and Android tablets, so now educators can create an environment poised for inquiry, driven by discovery, and saturated with opportunities for student achievement.

To this end, any teacher, coach, parent, or mentor can shape a child’s journey by plugging into connected learning to empower a learner with voice, design thinking, and digital awareness.

This is why I am educator who has #GoneGoogle with conviction.


EdTech Update - bringing the best news about EdTech to you

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and Aggregage are excited to announce the launch of EdTech Update. This new site and newsletter was created as a way to gather the best resources from hundreds of sources, including top bloggers such as Steve Anderson, Scott McLeod, EdFly, Christensen Institute, Digital Learning Now and many others.

The content is customizable by the user so that you only get what is the most interesting and relevant content for you. It looks at what you have selected, what you click on and share and then figures out what is most interesting to you. You can also personalize the content by using your LinkedIn profile, what you share on Twitter, what you click on either on the site or the newsletter, and what topics you
tell it are the most relevant based on your interests

There is a lot of great material and resources here - take a look. EdTech Update


Tech&Learning - free Edtech magazine, website and resources for educators

Tech&Learning is a great resource for educators. It is a print/online magazine, along with a great website. They also produce TechForum educational conferences and Virtual TechForum.

The Tech&Learning magazine, available free to qualified educators, is released monthly and contains articles, tips, resources, product reviews, and much more.

The website has a link to the electronic version of the magazine, the Tech&Learning Advisor blogs, links to resources from past TechForums, and more resources. There are articles on best practices, administration, integrating technology, professional development, free resources, tips and tricks, grant help, and so much more.

The Tech&Learning Advisors are educators who write articles for the TL Blog section of the website, contribute articles to the magazine, and also help review products and present at Tech&Learning Live, which is an excellent edtech conference held around the US throughout the year. The next one is March 13th in Atlanta. Some of the names may be familiar to you as they are also very active online with Twitter and their own blogs and present extensively at conferences and unconferences around the world.

The staff are friendly and helpful, the Tech&Learning Live conferences are great, fun, and informative, and the site and magazine have incredible information and resources.

Tech&Learning also maintains a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Tech&Learning is an excellent resource for all educators. It's free and contains a tremendous amount of information, links, resources, and tips and ideas.

You can sign up for a free print or digital edition here: 



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