Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pushing Messages to Student Chromebooks

If you use Chromebooks in your district, the GAFE Admin Console can be your best friend. The Admin Console gives you lots of different ways to configure Chrome and push things to your student devices. You can push specific apps and extensions and you can even push a wallpaper to all student Chromebooks. Depending on how you have your OUs set up, you could push a different wallpaper to each grade level of students or to students in different buildings. At the SH we currently have this wallpaper pushed to all student devices:

This serves as a good reminder for students since they see it every day! You could even have students design the wallpaper. What a great way to showcase student work! To set the wallpaper, go to Device management-->Chrome-->User settings and look for Wallpaper under General.

Another setting we have configured in our Admin Console is to load certain websites when Chrome is launched. We currently load the SH website and our Chromebook Information site.

Since you can list any website to load when Chrome is launched, we have recently added a Google Slide presentation to draw attention to our Career Academy application that is now live. The presentation includes one slide with a transparent box covering the entire slide. The transparent box is linked to the Career Academy application so students can easily access it. The presentation was published to the web and I copied the link and added it to the list of sites to open on startup. You can see the slide below. Click anywhere on the slide and it will take you to the application.

To specify pages to load on startup, go to Device management-->Chrome-->User settings and look for Pages to Load on Startup under Startup.

These are just two quick ways you can use the Admin Console to push messages to your student Chromebooks.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Favorite Things of 2015

The start of a new year always causes me to reflect on the year that has just passed. At the beginning of 2015 I did a review of my favorite tech tools from 2014. I thought to start out this year I would do the same. But as I was reflecting on my favorite things from 2015, I realized not all of them were tech tools. So I have changed my post to "Favorite Things of 2015." Here we go!

Being a huge fan of free tech tools, I do have to start with one of my favorite new tech tools of 2015. Hstry is a timeline creation tool. But it is so much more than just a timeline of dates, times and places. Hstry can include videos, audio, images, text, links and even quiz questions to make the timeline truly interactive. Hstry is obviously perfect for the Social Studies classroom, but I love Hstry as an alternative to a slide based presentation. And I love this blog post giving ideas for using Hstry in Math, Science, Language Arts and other subjects.

Another one of my favorite new tech tools of 2015 is Quizizz. Quizizz allows you to create multiplayer classroom activities that are perfect to review for quizzes or tests. Quizizz works with any web-enabled device. Students use a code to join your quiz. Once in the "game" students proceed through a series of questions at their own pace. Questions and answer choices are presented on the student device making this tool a great choice for classrooms that lack an audience display like a projector or interactive whiteboard. Students receive more points for answering questions correctly and quickly. When students finish the quiz they can review their quiz while they wait for others to finish. And for those of you wondering, yes, Quizizz is similar to Kahoot. You could use both tools. Where Kahoot is more teacher paced, Quizizz allows students to take the quiz at their own pace. Some students like that they do not have to wait for everyone to answer before they proceed on.

As I said in the introduction, not all of my favorites in 2015 are tech tools. This favorite is more of an event than a tech tool. My next favorite of 2015 is the Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is done in December to promote Computer Science Education Week. The idea is to give every student an opportunity to learn to code for just one hour during the week. I have promoted the Hour of Code since its inception but 2015 was truly the Hour of Code at Norfolk Public Schools! Over 2,000 students participated in the Hour of Code this year. From kindergartners to high schoolers, lots of students tried their hand at coding. And yes, you can code even if you have never coded before. code.org has tons of resources that allow every teacher to give coding a try. Learning to code is really learning how to think. And who couldn't benefit from that! It is not too late to try coding with your students. Head on over to code.org and sift through the mounds of help available. Or take a peek in my Coding LiveBinder. Coding should be done year round, not just in December!

And my final favorite(s) of 2015 are the books published by Dave Burgess Consulting. You may know Dave from his own book, Teach Like a Pirate. Dave has taken his publishing knowledge and harnessed it to give some great educators a voice. Each one of these books is better than the next.

Here are the Dave Burgess Consulting books I read in 2015:

Dave has done a great service to the education world by finding these amazing educators and giving them a platform to share what they are doing in their classrooms and their schools. Read just one of these books and you will be hooked!

Bonus Favorite!

I couldn't do a favorites list of 2015 and not include Bitmoji! I love Bitmoji. And while you might question its educational use, you will have so much fun with your Bitmoji you probably won't care that it isn't very educational! Bitmoji is an app that lets you make a little mini-me of yourself and then use it in your communications. From email to text messages to Voxer messages and Twitter posts, your Bitmoji will tell people how you really feel! And just so you know, I did manage to create a professional development activity using Bitmoji. Check it out!