Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today's Technology Tip (11/29/12)

Using "canned responses" in Gmail

If you ever find yourself writing the same response in an email over and over (like the directions to a student activity), with canned responses enabled in Gmail you can save a response and add it to an email with just one click.  Watch the video.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Student Gmail Login Page on District Website

Sometimes it is the little things that can make the biggest difference.

Thanks to a request from a thoughtful Waukesha teacher, a link to the SDW student Gmail login page is now posted on the district home page.  Take a look in the Students section of the site: .

This will save students a few keystrokes, but more importantly, will make logging in to student Gmail accounts just a little easier.

*It is important to note that students (and staff) can still just go to and using their whole email address as the username.  For students it will be .  For staff it will be .

Thanks Anne B. (and your students) for the suggestion!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Emphasis on creating, not just curating

I just read an article that talks about the next generation of smart phone technology (I know, some of you still haven't found a need to even consider purchasing this or the last generation of smart me,I get it!).

The author presented the concept that our future iPhones and Android phones will serve more as a digital assistant than just a phone. A relationship develops between the user and the device as the device begins to understand uses, locations, communication patterns, listens in to assist with note taking, etc. The device begins to take on these tasks for us, curating information from our daily lives without much input or energy expended by us.

Perhaps that is all well and good, but the concept gets under my skin a bit. I believe there is still something to be said for having to dig in and do! Here is my concern.

The information revolution we live in already makes access to knowledge and data instant and painless. However, it is still our work to both make sense of that information and to assist in the work of creating some of that information (uploads to YouTube, Flickr, and edits to Wikipedia exemplify this information contribution we partake in). I already see a concerning pattern of disconnection by people who gather digital information and resources very efficiently, but who fail to dig into those resources to consume, process, and learn from them. It is akin to hoarding of digital resources - they collect the resources but with little purpose or outcome in mind for them.

Consider, then, if the technology could learn what you wanted it to collect for you, at least in the way of digital resources. This simple shift in "process" truly ratchets up the likelihood that most of us may elect to simply overlook these digital resources, knowing we have access to them if/when we need them. Therein lies the problem! It is in the review of these resources that questioning, inquiry, puzzling, brainstorming, and innovative thinking happens. I worry about this shift, as it creates greater opportunity for disengagement from the resources that help us generate our own thoughts and feelings on issues and topics.

We cannot stop the march of technological innovation, though, so what are we to do?

I wonder if the answer is in encouraging and teaching people to be content creators. It is because I write two blogs that I value and genuinely read blogs written by others. It is because I create tutorial videos and place them on YouTube, that I watch and evaluate the quality of other tutorial videos on YouTube. It is because I work diligently to mantain a high quality of posts and resources in my social networls that I critically evaluate and utilize rhe resources placed in those networks by others.

There is a natural element of appreciation for the work of others when we have engaged meaningfully in at least dabbling in that work ourselves. I appreciate the talents and efforts of others because I, too, have attempted it. Perhaps the same is true for our students. If we could meaningfully engage them in the work of creating content and contributing it to the global community, perhaps we could naturally encourage our students to thoughtfully engage with the resources they encounter, instead of having them simply collect and overlook these resources.

This means, though, that we have to, above all else, encourage our kids to be makers as well as consumers of digital resources. That means that our jobs change significantly, as we focus on creating the questions, structure, and conditions for learning, instead oF simply focusing on distributing learning to all. This is the transition we can make in our classrooms today to thwart the kinds of issues we know exist presently, which will only grow as technology advances in the future.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Today's Technology Tip

How to log out of Gmail remotely.

     If you ever log in to Gmail from a library computer or any computer that is used by others, you need to log out when you are done.  Otherwise the next person on that computer could have access to your Gmail.  I know!  But don't worry because you can check to see if you are logged in to other computers and you can remotely log off.  Just watch the video and give it a try ... unless you're sure you are not logged in anywhere else.

For more technology help visit our Instructional Technology pages at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Google Drive Research Tool

You've been there.   The open books, magazines, and resources spread out on the table, head snapping between the key words and quotes from the text and the notepad (or better yet, index card) on which your notes (and citations) will be stored for the research paper you will need to write eventually.

With a little help from technology, at least one part of that equation can be eliminated -- the painstaking (and often inaccurate) handwritten copying of research resources, quotations, and key elements.

With the update to Google Drive (formerly called Google Docs), a few other key updates were made.  The Google Research Tool is one of those updates.  The Research Tool (available when you are in a Google Document by clicking on Tools --> Research Tool) keeps your Google Document open on the left side of the screen, and then place a fully functional research window on the right side of the screen. Search Google from right within your Google Doc, find resources, images, quotes, or even use Google Scholar.

The beauty is that resources, citations, images, and quotes can all be dragged into your document with LIVE LINKS to the resources for later exploration.  It's kind of like turning the world of resources available on the web into a stack of selected resources from the stacks of a library, all sitting right there on your research resources piles.

Pretty impressive, but more importantly, very efficient.  Have your students regain their focus on the reading and selection of the resources instead of on the handwritten copying of that research (and citations, if they remember to do so) on to note cards or pads, to later re-write or type those citations into the actual paper.  Imagine the efficiency!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Are you a Chrome Ninja?

Old habits die hard.  That means that you have to have a pretty darn good reason for changing those old habits.  Based on what we are learning about Google Chrome, switching your preferred web browser is one of those habits you may soon want to consider taking on.

Some teaser "killer apps" for Google Chrome that may get you considering a change:

  • Easily switch between multiple Google accounts without logging out and back in
  • Never type in to your address bar again -- search Google right from the OmniBox (address bar) in Chrome
  • That same Omnibox (address bar) in your browser can also serve as a calculator -- just type an equation in and see
  • Easily bookmark your favorite sites, and have those bookmarks appear on any device with a Chrome browser that you log in to with a Google account 
  • Add incredible apps and extensions to the browser and make your working (and personal) life more fun and efficient (a timer extension that allows you to have a stop watch for group discussion sessions with students -- an image editing extension that allows you to screen shot and draw on/annotate photos from the web -- many more)

My personal Google Chrome Sensei, Molly Schroeder, has put together another masterful presentation/resource featuring some of the incredible tips and tricks that make Google Chrome a dynamite web browser.

If you want to take a look at some of Sensei Schroeder's favorite Google Extensions and Apps, look here -

*Warning - The possibilities may blow your mind!
**If you need additional Chrome assistance or questions, feel free to contact any member of the Instructional Technology Coordinator team for help.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Social Research Project - STEM Saratoga Students

One of our favorite things to do is to demonstrate the real work of our staff and students to provide an outlet for student publishing, but also to serve as a model for reflection related to the skills demonstrated and the learning opportunities presented.

In this post, we have some special guest posters for this blog.  Special thanks to Mikayla P. and Jayden R., 7th grade students at STEM -Saratoga for their work and reflection, and to their teacher, Tina K. for providing the opportunity for students.

Project background from the teacher:

This project is called the Facebook Page Design Brief.  Students, paired in groups of two or three, are to choose one of the candidates (president or vice-president) to create a Facebook page for.  The page must encompass who they are. This is a project with specific criteria to follow, and a template formula is provided to jump start research and the project framing properly.

See the Students' Submitted Project:

Student Reflection on the Work (in the students' words):

What did you learn? (Social studies, writing, & 21st century skills)

"We learned about the candidates and their lifestyle around politics. The facts we
found about the different candidates were very intriguing. It was interesting to learn that
they do things just like “normal citizens” do in their life. As writers, we learned how to
combine several facts into organized paragraphs and sections of the project. We looked
at several websites, and learned that one resource is not always the best way to go.
Jayden and I made sure to find the most reliable sources and base our information off of
those. As twenty first century students, we learned to problem solve along the way, and
the first idea doesn’t always work out."

What process did you go through as a learner? (21st century skills)

"We went through many steps through our few days of working on this project. The
first step we went through was collaborating among ourselves to come up with initial
ideas on how to put our page together. The next step in our process was to split the
work load up between the two of us. For example, one person found facts for one
section, and the other found pictures for that part of the project. Next, was to actually
find the information. For some facts and information, we found that as researchers,
we had to dig deeper to find information. Most of it wasn’t just on the first link when
we searched on Google. After we found the facts, we jotted main ideas down in our
notes, instead of long sentences. Next, we had to piece all of the information together
to form paragraphs. Instead of just plopping random facts on the project, we wanted to
make sure the sentences flowed easily and the information was organized. Finally, after
organizing the paragraphs on the page, we revised each part of the project. We wanted
to make sure the project looked neat, and not just random pictures and paragraphs
randomly put on the project."

Should school challenge you in this way?

"Both of us think that school should challenge you to dig deeper when displaying
your information. Instead of just writing down notes and answering questions, we think
school should encourage you to display your knowledge in an interesting, fun way. We
know that when we finish a project, we feel proud about our project, and what we did. It
is a fun way to share what you know. Projects also are more intriguing to the audience
instead of just facts."

Some Final Thoughts to Consider:

At first blush, this project may not present itself as academically equivalent to longer, more complex research and writing tasks students traditionally assigned to students.  However, evaluating the demonstrated skills more carefully, there are some very advanced skill sets, some application of knowledge, and some design principles in place within this sample of work.  Solely in the ability of the students to pare down big ideas into quick, easy-to-understand postings in common language demonstrate that the culminating work reflects deeper research and authentic engagement with the work.  Further, to quote the girls, "School should encourage you to display your knowledge in an interesting, fun way."  The assumption that school work can be fun and that students do take pride when partaking in meaningful (yet challenging) work, is important to acknowledge as we plan our way forward in re-thinking teaching and learning.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Today's Technology Tip

Google Calendar Invitations

If you want to invite 1 or more people to a meeting, use your Google Calendar to invite them.



 If you would like certain people to be able to "book" a meeting with you online, from specific dates and times that you specify ... use Youcanbookme. It works with your Google Calendar.

With Youcanbookme you could:

  • set up 'office hours' that you are available to your students. It could be 1 hour a day with 15 minute time slots, or every Tuesday from 9:00-10:30 or whatever works for you.
  • make yourself available to teachers that you coach or mentor ... just set up your available meeting times for them to choose from. 
  • set up Parent-Teacher Conferences with 15 minute time slots on conference days. As soon as a parent books you, that time slot is no longer available for someone else. Some of our elementary schools have plans to try this. Check out the video below to see if this could work for you!

                                                            select the highest quality playback from the 'gear' tool at the bottom of the player

For more technology help visit our Instructional Technology pages at

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Today's Technology Tip

Creating a Self-Grading Quiz in Google Forms
Not only can you create a quiz and send a link to your students to take that quiz online, you can also set up your Google Form to automatically grade your quiz and create a report.  This video will take you through the process step by step.


Scroll down for previous tech tips.