Friday, November 27, 2015

Let's Go Take a [Google] Drive....

I have found a great beginners Google Drive Tutorial posted by Anson Alexander.  Rather than recreate the wheel, I embedded the video. It is close captioned as well.  What I really like is how he goes step by step introducing each part of Drive.    

Some organizational highlights I would reiterate:
1. Name your documents as soon as you start.  Getting into this great organizational habit will help you not end up with a variety of Untitled documents in your Drive.

2. Create folders.  Something he doesn't show you is that you can change the color of the folders.  Though he says he generally doesn't use folders personally, creating folders helps provide a visual sorting system that you can customize to match the colors of a student's color coding system that he or she already uses.  But note, the color features do not carryover to mobile device.   Just right click on the folder icon and select Change Color.

3. Star your frequently used or important documents.  Like favoriting a website, starring a file will allow you to quickly locate a document.

4. Delete things you no longer use or need.  If you Trash an item, it will only stay in the trash for 30 days. So be sure that you no longer need or want it.

Up next, Add Ons, Extensions and Apps- How to customize your experience and differentiate for learners of different abilities.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why Chrome Might Add Bling To Your Educational Experience...

For over the past year now, I have heard so much hype about incorporating Google Chrome into the educational process.  Now that I have gathered a ton of information, completed some trials and tribulations, I wanted to share what I have learned so you can decide for yourself if Chrome will be your new accessory.

Google Chrome is a web browser.  Just like Safari.  You can download it for free onto your Mac or PC; you can have it automatically as your internet platform on a Chromebook.  You can even download it onto your iOS devices (but I’ll get into usability on a later post).  But the magic occurs when you activate a gmail account.  Once you do that (whether it be a personal account or a google-based education account from a school), it opens up a plethora of supports.

So, I’ll wait while you do that….

Are you done downloading and installing your Chrome Web browser?  If you see a Red, Green, and Yellow donut encircling a blue dot, then you should be good.

Did you create your gmail account?
Good, now you can play.

First thing’s first.  I am going to describe a few basics.

This is your email account.  This is your user account.  This is what is attached to everything you do in Drive, the Chrome Store, Google Classroom and Google Sites.

Google Drive is a web based documentation forum that has a word processing section (Docs), an excel-like program (Sheets), a powerpoint-like program (Slides), and another section (Forms).  You can save documents in the happy cloud land.  And bonus, it saves automatically as you work.

Google Classroom.
If you work or are a student that uses google based accounts, then you may have access to setting up your very own Google Classroom.  This will not work if you do not have an email account ending in .edu.  If you are not sure, ask your local IT guy.

Chrome Web Store.
It’s not the Apple App store; but it is similar.  When you find the colorful 9 block icon that is labeled “Apps” (on my browser, it’s in the upper left hand corner) or just enter in the url, you will now have the ability to attach Apps and Extensions to your gmail user account.  This means, the apps and extensions you download can/will follow up wherever you log into a Chrome browser (except on iOS devices but I’ll get into that in a later post).  Most things are free, especially when it comes to education.

What’s an App?
Just like when you download an app from the Apple Store to your iOS device, an App from the Google Chrome Web Store will bring you to a website and you will be able to complete games or tasks within that app.

What’s the difference with an Extension?
Extensions are tools you can use to customize your user experience in any site you could be on.

Now this is only the beginning.  And I don’t want to blow your mind just yet.  What I do want you to do is play and explore.  Because there is a world of digital opportunity ready for the taking for anyone willing to try. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts and how-to sections to discover how Chrome's apps and extensions can help support different learning styles.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Thoughts and Highlights from Assistive Technology Conference of New England 2015

Define "Reading"

I heard this in the last session I attended with Gaby Richard-Harrington who is an Instructional Technology Specialist in Western Massachusetts, and it stuck and resonated with me.  I remember at the beginning of the school year when my second grader brought home his weekly reading log, and I wondered to myself, well, does this count the Audio Books we read/listen to in the car? And I should have asked for clarification, but I didn't.  But now I wonder, WHY should I ask?  

Not being a reading specialist or a teacher, the WHY becomes evident.  You need to define READING.  Is the purpose for oral fluency?  Is it for the progression and speed of the left to right, bottom to top nature?  Is it to develop a love of listening to stories?  Is it for the social emotional aspect of reading with a parent or peer?  Is it for the comprehension of materials?  

Reading to me is not just the act of eyes and brain working together fluidly to decode and sound out characters.  I love reading.  I love stories.  I love learning.  But for someone who struggles with any of the above aspects, I doubt they LOVE it.  In fact, you ask a struggling reader and they probably say they HATE it.  And that is a strong word.  

So when assigning reading tasks, I challenge parents and educators to define clearly what is it that you are actually asking the student to do.  It is then I think that you can see what kinds of tools are out there to help them become engaged "readers".  

But first, just observe your reader(s).  Does the student/child rub his eyes a lot, squint, or get headaches?  Any of these should be red flagged and referred to an optometrist.  Can the child/student use his eyes together to scan across a page without jumping?  Do they have difficulty switching from the board to the book?  If acuity has been addressed, then maybe a referral to an Occupational Therapist or Development Ophthalmologist might be in order.  Is the student frequently reversing letters, missing letters or words, or just doesn't seem to be getting the whole picture?  Maybe screening for a learning disability may be in order with a Neuropsychologist.

And in the mean TIME of all of this, how is the child accessing his reading material???  Because, we know this ALL TAKES TIME!  So look at what you have available in the classroom, the district and the local library.  Perhaps providing the student/child with the audio version of the novel you are reading in class would be an easy option.  Do you have access to the digital format?  Using the built in options on the MAC or PC to use the text to speech options may help.  Does your district already have a site license for products like Read and Write Gold or Read and Write for Google?

I know this seems like a rant, but it is more of a challenge.  I challenge teachers, parents, and therapists to really LOOK at the student (or yourself even) and DEFINE READING.  It is only then you can begin to analyze how to really support the reader.