Sunday, November 22, 2015

Changes in Google Forms

If you go to make a Google Form now, you'll notice that you're prompted to try the new Google Forms.  It's quite a different look.  I just made my first form with the new version.  Overall, I like the new interface.  It's a cleaner look; rather than presenting all options at all times, it keeps things hidden until you need them.  The only thing I see to be missing at this point are Add-ons, but in my experience, those are not widely used at CVU.  I expect that they will be re-created for this new version of Forms and will start to re-appear.  Themes are also handled differently.

I was going to make a video explaining the new features, but I found this excellent one already done (from

One thing mentioned in the video is that data validation (checking to see that an answer is a number, for example) is not available in the new Forms.  This has been added back in since.

I'd love to hear what people think of the new Forms.  I'd be happy to help teachers and students get started with these.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Going paperless (or at least less-paper)

Two things are prompting this post:

  1. The recent post to faculty and staff about how much paper we use
  2. Some documents that my advisee asked me to print for her today (since she was having trouble with the printer).  This included a document where she had used color-coding for analyzing a piece of writing-- colors that didn't translate when printed in black & white!  I had to wonder if her teacher for that class would have found it a whole lot easier to have a digital workflow that eliminated the paper chase and leveraged tools for collaboration and feedback.

image from bluesnap at pixabay

Bottom line

we use lots and lots of paper.  And not only could we use a lot less, there are many situations where a paperless solution actually works far better.  This isn't hypothetical--I speak here from the experience of many CVU teachers (myself included).

One concern I hear is that it can be hard to keep track of electronic documents and that students sometimes blame technology for losing their work.  Let me address each of these:

  1. There are tools available that automatically create folders for each of the students in your class (with the proper sharing rights assigned), then can create individual documents for each student based on a template you provide and put them into those folders.   
  2. As for "losing" work, I would argue that a digital solution actually provides a better system for tracking the workflow (and accountability).  No more "I put it in your mail box" confusions.  The key is not to have students emailing things in a haphazard fashion.  Again, there are tools designed to handle the submission of work and the feedback cycle.
  3. Speaking of the feedback cycle, one of the beauties of a digital workflow is that teachers can comment on student work in different ways, including recorded voice comments.  Plus, the comment trail is preserved, so you can always go back and review the back-and-forth between student and teacher (or for peer feedback, etc.).

How about trying some of this out on an upcoming assignment?  I'd be happy to set the whole thing up for you, or to walk you through it.  I think you'll be pleased with the results.

Thanks in advance for considering it.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Printing a Piktochart

I've written before about Piktochart. It's a great web tool for creating infographics as well as other
documents.  These work great on the web, but sometimes people want a printed version. Piktochart does not have a built-in print feature (a la File..Print).  I've put together a document that explains how to get around that.  Essentially, it involves sizing your Piktochart correctly and downloading it as an image.

Here are the details.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Vermont Fest 2015

I'm back from Vermont Fest (the annual ed tech conference).

As always, I learned a lot-- both in
formal sessions and in the less formal conversations with colleagues from around the state.

Some takeaways from presentations:

  • Podcasting is powerful!  Check out the work of Richmond Elementary's Principal Berry
  • The AOE is looking to develop a library of video resources to help teachers with tech integration.  I'll be keeping an eye on that.
  • I went to a great session on Chrome Tools and Extensions for UDL (Universal Design for Learning), presented by Chris CichoskiKelly. We learned about the Voice Typing tool in Google Docs (really nice!), tools for reducing clutter on pages, screencasting, and more.  Check out the slides here (used with permission).
  • The "Creation and Innovation Space" showed off all kinds of tools for, well, creating and innovating!  These included 3D printers, green screen video, paper circuits, audio tools (featuring yours truly), robots, and more.  It was great to have a strong focus on creativity.  

Here's the full program.  Many of the presenter materials are available there, as well.  

Managing JumpRope Reports


You're likely getting a lot of JumpRope reports these days for your advisees.  I put together a quick screencast on how you can manage these.   Note that you need to be signed into CSSU to view this.

Essentially, you can create a filter in GMail that says "put all messages from JumpRope into a folder I created."  This is similar to how many of us handle messages from various Google Groups.

Here are the steps in text format:

  1. Click on one of your JumpRope reports.
  2. Go to More..Filter messages like these
  3. Verify that the From: field says
  4. Click "Create filter with this search..."
  5. Choose which Label (folder) to apply and--optionally-- Skip the inbox.
  6. Check the box that says "Also apply filter to x matching conversations"
  7. Click Create.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Report on Media Use

The average teen uses 9 hours of media a day.

Common Sense Media (an excellent resource for issues around kids' media use and digital citizenship) just released a study on how students aged 8-18 use media.  The results are summarized in the infographic below.  Worth reading.  The full report is available here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Branching stories with Inklewriter

Here's a new tool I discovered today-- Inklewriter.  It's for creating interactive branching stories (where the reader chooses how the story will proceed).  This could be a lot of fun for you creative writers out there!  If you try it out, let me know what you think!