Monday, October 23, 2017

The Highlight Tool: Taking Highlighters to the Next Level

I'm always looking for new Add-Ons to try out in Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, and now Slides. One particularly helpful tool is the Highlighter Add-On for Google Docs. Want to see it in action? Check out my video below:


Students can use this tool to highlight text to identify patterns, take notes, and organize information. The Highlighter Add-On then saves your highlights and generates a new document containing your highlights in sequence or organized by color.

This is a helpful tool in any classroom, especially where students need to take notes and identify patterns. What's your favorite Add-On? Leave a comment below.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Create Screen Capture GIF's from Chrome with Bukket

When you think of GIF's, you might think of funny animated images on social media or text messages. Over the past year, I have learned the value of creating animated GIF's to help enhance step-by-step instructions for students and teachers alike.

How can you create animated GIF's from screen recordings? One possible option is the Bukket Chrome Extension, which allows you to create screen captures and animated GIF recordings on your web browser. Many schools restrict teachers from downloading applications from the Internet, so this may be an option.

How can you create an Animated GIF with Bukket?

  • First, you will want to make sure that you install the Bukket Chrome Extension. Remember: Chrome Extensions only work in the Chrome Browser.

  • Next, choose the Bukket extension and choose "Record Selected Area" to record a specific area on your browser window OR you can choose "Record Visible Area" to record your entire open window. 

  • Then, you will choose "Record" to record your GIF. Bukket will capture any action on your screen including your mouse movements. 

  • When you are finished, choose "Stop Recording." This will begin the encoding process, which will take a few moments. 

  • Finally, you can choose "Save" to save your GIF to your device. 

After you finish, you will have your very own animated GIF! See my example below:


There are many great animated GIF creators out there. What are some of your favorites? I would love to hear your ideas. Please leave a comment. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

3 MORE Safe Alternatives to YouTube!

First of all, I want to thank you all for your feedback! After my last post titled 3 Alternatives to YouTube, I received many great ideas from you. Without further adieu, here are 3 more alternatives to YouTube!

# 1 - Watchkin

Watchkin is another great YouTube video alternative that I recently learned about. It provides a safe environment for watching YouTube videos, as well as creating a safe URL similar to SafeShare.Tv and NiceTube. Users can also search for YouTube videos within the website, which makes it a very good tool to use in the classroom.

#2 - Embed YouTube Video in Google Slides

If you are looking for an easy way to show videos without the distractions, you might want to try embedding a YouTube video in a Google Slides presentation. Your presentation can be shared with students and they do not have to be distracted by suggested videos.

How does this work?

  • First, create your Google Slides presentation.

  • Next, you will choose the Insert menu and select "Video."

  • Then, you will need to search for your YouTube video. As a side note, you can insert videos from Google Drive tool.

  • Finally, you will choose "Select" to embed your video in your presentation. 

# 3 - NearPod

I like NearPod as a presentation tool, but have you ever thought of having students watch YouTube videos via the site / app? This might be a good alternative to YouTube because you can control how long students watch the video and you have the ability to restrict students from visiting other sites.

Simply embed the link of your video in a NearPod slide and students are ready to watch!


Do you have any other alternatives to YouTube? I would love to hear about them! Leave a comment below.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

My Leadership Journey: Which Way Does Your Arrow Point?

Which way does life's arrow point in your life? 

This is a question that I have been pondering in my own life. As many of you know, I set the ambitious goal of interviewing 50 leaders in a one year period. Today marks the ending of a one year journey.

Throughout my journey, I have seen many excellent and poor examples of leaders. I have sat across from leaders who kindly gave up hours of their time to share their experiences with a stranger. Many graciously bestowed their prized life stories, lessons, and resources without any expectation of repayment. Many were kind. Some were egotistical. Most were extremely helpful. Some were surly and curt. 

After interviewing 54 different people, I learned that all leaders have a compass for service. The arrow points in one of two directions, towards the leader or others.

The Arrow Towards Me

When the arrow points towards us, we expect others to serve our needs, expectations, and desires. I found this to be true in one leader, who told me in no uncertain terms that he expects his employees to make his preferences their top priority. Although this has helped him "get to the top," has it really?

We have to be careful, because there are other times when we "cloak" the arrow to appear one way, but it is just a disguise for personal gain. Unfortunately, this type of style creates an organization filled with confused and fearful subordinates, who are inefficient and unsure of expectations. This mentality creates fear that produces a cut-throat and power-hungry environment, where it is difficult to trust the actions of leaders within the organization. It is disappointing that leadership becomes a game to get ahead in this type of environment.

The Arrow Towards Others

When the arrow points away from us, we shift the focus from ourselves to others. I know this sounds a little cliche, but the most effective leaders find serving others. One leader that I spoke with talked about how she would visit every single employee every morning. She learned more about his employees' lives, motivations, interests, and abilities.

Travis Roy

One of the best examples of the arrow pointing towards others is in the life of Travis Roy. For the first 20 years of his life, Travis was an accomplished hockey player. All he wanted to be was a hockey player. Everything else fell secondary.

Travis received a scholarship to Division I hockey-powerhouse Boston University. In the first game of his freshman season, he received an opportunity to play. Within 11 seconds, his career and hockey career was over. Travis was the victim of a freak accident, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life.

It's hard to have your arrow point towards others, especially when you have such a life-changing injury. It's hard to not succumb to bitterness in the midst of such difficulties, but Travis had a desire to make more of an impact. He desired to be more than "just a hockey player." He wanted to make a difference in the lives of others.

With this passion in mind, he created the Travis Roy Foundation. The foundation is designed to change the lives of spinal-injury victims, through raising money for research and grants. The organization inspires, raises awareness, and gives hope to thousands of spinal-injury victims and their families.


Travis Roy is an example of the benefit of turning your arrow towards others. Each time we turn the arrow to serve others, we serve ourselves. We give ourselves life, hope, and meaning to live. Turning the arrow towards others is one of the most life-changing things that any person or leader can do.

See more about Travis' story below:

Friday, October 13, 2017

3 Alternatives to YouTube

As a secondary teacher, I used YouTube as a teaching tool on a regular basis. Although it has improved over time, questionable content sometimes appeared in the suggested videos section. Since my move into the elementary level as a Learning Technologies Specialist, I have began to search for alternatives to YouTube. Here are 3 alternatives to YouTube:

# 1 - NicerTube

I just came across NicerTube in searching for YouTube alternatives. It is very easy to use. You simply copy and paste the URL of a YouTube video, choose a creative background, and NicerTube creates your video.

Want to see an example? Check out my video tutorial from a previous post. I love the fact that this tool is free, easy-to-use, and allows you to make as many videos as you would like; however, it does contain advertisements.

# 2 - SafeShare.TV

is extremely easy to use and customize to the needs of your students. You simply copy and paste the URL of any YouTube or Vimeo video and SafeShare.TV generates a new URL. You can customize when your video starts, the title of your video, the description, or whether you want to hide buttons to control the video. Once your video generates a unique SafeShare.TV URL, your video is protected and students will no longer see previews to other videos.

What I don't like is that you have to have an account to create a video; however, you can easily use your Google or Facebook account to link to SafeShare.TV. The free version also limits you to 20 videos per month. Check out pricing information for more.

# 3 - Google Drive

If you are creating your own videos, you may want to consider using Google Drive as a place to house and share your videos too. If you are a G Suite school, then you realize that you have unlimited storage space. This strategy limits what students are exposed to because they will only see your video in a preview window.

How does this work? 

Simply upload your video to Google Drive, which may take a few minutes to upload and encode.

After your video is ready, click on the 3 vertical dots (right-side of your screen) and choose share.

Click on "Get Shareable Link" icon and select "Anyone with Link Can View."

Copy the URL and share away! 


Do you have other alternatives to YouTube? I would love to hear your ideas. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

5 Tips for Creating Your Own Assignment Tic Tac Toe Board

Choice is an important aspect of student engagement. If we know that it works, why do we sometimes limit the amount of choice that we give students? I know that it is not always appropriate or possible, but there are always ways to provide options.

With this in mind, I decided to combine the idea of a Tic Tac Toe board and choices. There are many great examples across the Internet of educators using this idea to create assignments. Here is an idea that I created:

Here are 5 tips for creating your own assignment Tic Tac Toe board:

1. State Your Goals 

If you notice, because humans are naturally goal-oriented, I provided the goal for each section. We need to understand "why" we are doing something; therefore, I stated it in clear terms (i.e. find a current event, summarize, share your opinion).

2. Clear Goals, Require Clear Assessments

Although it is important to share your goals, it is also important to have a rubric communicating specific behaviors and actions. Students should have access to your rubric. Avoid Likert scales 1 - 5 without any description of the behaviors!

3. Structured Options

Too many options creates the burden of choice. I have learned to provide students with a few structured choices. My Tic Tac Toe board provides students with the ability to construct (hand written or typed) or create (with audio or video).  In my experience, if students have too many options, they will sit there and do nothing.

4. Scaffolds and Supports

In any assignment, there are always high-probability barriers. It may be helpful to provide scaffolds, supports, and examples of what you are talking about. In the Tic Tac Toe board, I provided several different scaffolds and supports. For example, I suggested approximately 2 -3 tools they should consider when doing the project, such as Google Docs, QuickTime, etc.

I also placed arrows on the Tic Tac Toe board as examples of what diagonal or vertical mean. Why? This can be a difficult concept for some students.

5. Create an Electronic Version

If your students have access to technology, I would create an electronic version of your Tic Tac Toe board. Why? It provides students with visual difficulties with the opportunity to zoom in and out. Students can print out copies if they lost the copy you handed out. Hyperlinks provide an interactive component to take students to various resources.


Have you created your own Tic Tac Toe board? I would love to hear about it! Please share a comment below.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New Grading Feature in Google Forms!

Google Forms is quickly becoming one of my favorite formative assessment tools. In the past, you used to have to limit self-grading questions on Google forms to multiple choice, checklists, and dropdown menus.

Google recently made an update to Forms, which allows users to create self-grading quizzes with short answers. How does it work?

Step 1: Choose the Settings Button (Gear Icon)

Choose the Settings button, select the Quizzes tab, and turn on the Make this a Quiz feature. Make sure that you save your progress!

Step 2: Create Your Question

Create your question on Google Forms. Type in your question and make sure that "Short Answer" is selected.

Step 3: Add Your Correct Answers

While you are still editing your question, select "Answer Key" and enter in all of your possible short answers. You will also want to select the box containing "Mark All Other Answers as Incorrect" and add a point value for your question.

NOTE: If you want students to type text or numbers a certain way, you can use the description and response validation features of Google Forms. Make sure that you are back in the editing feature of your question in order to access this.

  • The description section is useful for writing a helpful hint, such as "Capitalize the first letter!"
  • The response validation feature is useful for restricting responses to a certain type of answer. For example, you may want to limit responses to numbers and whole numbers.