5 Chromebook Settings to Set

Your Chromebook is highly customizable to your needs.  Adjusting these 5 built-in settings will greatly improve your user experience and effectiveness on your Chromebook. Try them out, then teach them to your students!

  1. Personalization
  2. Accessibility
  3. Language
  4. Map Keyboard
  5. Download Location

First, Find Your Settings

Chrome OS Settings (for the device) can be found by clicking on the time (bottom right of screen) and clicking the gear icon:

This will bring up the Settings screen, from which you can either click categories on the left side, or do a keyword search at the top (my preferred method) for each of the 5 settings I'm about to share.

Got your Settings screen ready? Let's customize!

1. Personalization

Who doesn't love some new wallpaper and a profile pic for a fresh start? Click Personalization on the left, or type it into the Search bar.

2. Accessibility

Search for Accessibility and then click Manage accessibility features to try out the built-in supports, like a magnifying glass, text-to-speech, and enlarged cursor.  
I recommend toggling on that first "Always show accessibility..." switch - it will make accessibility features more accessible by putting them in your system menu:

3. Languages and Inputs

Search for "Languages" to add an additional language to your system text, keyboard, and voice-to-text settings.

Add languages by clicking where you see the circles below:
Toggling on Show input options in the shelf (by the red arrow) will make changing between keyboards easy by putting a button at the bottom of your screen:

4. Map Keyboard

This is especially useful if you're using another device you're more familiar with, such as an Apple iMac or MacBook, and you want the key combinations to match. Search for Keyboard and open it to reveal the ability to change which key controls which function.
For example, in this picture I changed my "Control" key to be my "Alt" key, and vice versa.  This mapping matches my iMac keyboard's layout, so now my fingers can move in familiar ways to do things like copy, paste, switch tabs, etc.

5. Set Location of Downloads

When you save a file, where should it go? What about Screenshots? Set this important feature up using your Chrome Settings, meaning first you need to open the Chrome browser, then click the three dots in the top-right corner, abd find Settings

Now, search for Downloads:

As you can see, mine was set up to save all files to my Google Drive account. While it's an awesome feature of Chromebooks that my Drive appears like a set of folders on the device, I don't want to automatically save every file there.

Especially important is that my screenshots will auto-save to this location, cluttering up my Drive. I'd rather save them to my Downloads folder on the Chromebook.

So I click Change and then select the Downloads folder, and save my choice using the blue Open button. (Note: You can create new folders in your Downloads folder to further organize files on your device!)

Don't forget to toggle on Ask where to save if you'd prefer to choose a location each time you download a file.

These are just a few of the many features your Chromebook lets you personalize. You've customized your new vehicle, now take it for a test drive!

8 Essential Keyboard Shortcuts for Chromebooks

Whether you're transitioning from a different device or just looking to become a keyboard ninja, these shortcuts are essential on a Chromebook. 

Here are 5 Shortcuts You Need... followed by 3 you wish your students didn't know!

  1. Top Row
  2. Screenshots
  3. Zoom
  4. Caps Lock
  5. Dock Window
  6. Rotate Screen
  7. Log Out
  8. Restart

1. Top Row

The top row of keys have unique functions on a Chromebook and should be your starting point for learning the device:

2. Screenshots

Snap a quick pic of the whole screen with Ctrl + Switch key:

Select just a portion of your screen by adding the Shift key.  You'll then need to click and drag the area you want to select:

You'll see this popup, where you can click the picture to go open the file, or "Copy to Clipboard" for immediate copy/paste action.

3. Zoom

Use these keys to change the zoom level on your screen:

Ctrl and + = Zoom in
Ctrl and -  = Zoom out
Ctrl and 0  = Reset Zoom to default (100%)

4. Caps Lock

You went looking for Caps Lock, and found only a search button in its place. Never fear, Alt + Search is here!

(Press the Shift key when you're ready to turn Caps Lock off!)

5. Dock Windows Side-By-Side

If you need to use multiple apps or browser windows, using the Ctrl + Bracket Keys will cut your current app's screen space in half, and attach it to the side of your screen, allowing you to open another app side-by-side:

And now, 3 shortcuts your students know (but you wish they didn't.... Because they do them to each others' keyboards.... Constantly. #MiddleSchoolLife)

6. Rotate Screen

Ctrl + Shift + Refresh rotates the screen 90 degrees.   

This has only occasional usefulness... but good to know for when a kid rotates someone else's screen. 

7. Log Out

Ctrl + Shift + QQ: Press the Q twice while holding the other two keys, and you immediately log out of the Chromebook. 

8. Restart

When in doubt, a Restart solves many common problems or glitches. This requires the refresh key on the keyboard AND the power button on the side of the device.

Now go forth, keyboard ninja, and conquer your Chromebook!

5 Ways to Refresh Your Teaching and Tech-ing Practice during a break

1.  Podcasts

Play them while in the car, doing household chores, at the gym - it's free PD, whenever! There are a growing number of Ed Tech podcasts, but a lot of general teaching shows too. They vary in length, style, and quality.  One notable exception is my personal favorite, the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast.  I love it because she holds short, practical conversations with real classroom teachers about how to improve a small slice of their teaching practice or implement a new idea.   Here are a few in regular rotation on my phone:

2. Social Media

Many teachers lean on Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers, and YouTube as their go-to social media platform for educational materials and ideas. But what those platforms are missing is the social part - connecting with other real teachers for practical advise.
  • Facebook Groups: There are many groups set up for educators around a particular content area, topic, tech tool, or other focus.  Two of my favorites is Teachers Throwing Out Grades (TTOG) and Teachers Going Gradeless (TG2) - perfect for teachers moving away from traditional point-based grading systems towards either a gradeless, Proficiency-Based, or Standards-Based Grading system - or anyone looking for creative assessment ideas.  I'm also in groups for National Board Certification, Flipgrid, Breakout EDU, and Technology Specialists. Do a search in Facebook for an educator group near you!
  • Twitter:  So you created an account once, then never used it.  Don't feel alone - you're part of the 54% of Twitter users who have an account but don't use it daily. But if you do feel alone as a teacher, Twitter is a great way to get off your teaching island and connect with like-minded professionals outside of your building.  It can seem daunting at first, but here's a great article on how to use Twitter for beginners. Follow a few people (like me! @SantosTechCoach - then see who I follow for ideas!) and lurk for a while. When you're ready to join the conversation, hop in!
  • Google Plus:  Google+ is no longer available to regular Google users, but anyone with an Education account can still use their school credentials to get in. Similar to Facebook groups, there are "Communities" you can search and join with like-minded professionals. When I need a tech tip, this is one of my first go-to locations!

3.  Blogs

Gone are the days when you need to sign up for an expensive class, buy and read entire books, or pay for peer-reviewed journal articles to get good teacher development training.  Here are a few blogs out there that have helped me along over the years. Most have an associated email list you can sign up for to get updates. Most also offer some form of (paid) online training if you are interested in diving deeper into a topic.  Don't forget to look the authors up on Twitter as well!

4.  Books

There is no shortage of educational books, and though we can usually count on our schools/districts to provide a quality text for a required book study, you may want to choose a specific topic to focus on to supercharge your teaching.  AJ Juliani published 100 Books Teachers Should Read, so I try to pick a few off of that list every year.   Aside from just pedagogy and strategy, I try to read something that involves education, children, or social justice in a way that is more about connecting with my "why" than it is digging into the details of "how".  I find it refreshing to re-read books like Water is Wide, The Education of Little Tree, and my favorite, Letters to a Young Teacher (or anything by Jonathon Kozol).  The part about Mr. Rogers visiting a school in the Bronx gets my allergies acting up every time.

5. Google Certification

One of the top 5 experiences that changed my teaching career was getting Google Certified. For me it was more than a badge and a resume builder. I learned enough about how to use the free tools at my disposal - and how other teachers were already taking learning to a higher level - that it shifted my entire teaching philosophy.  Although experienced G Suite for Edu users are probably already well prepared, it's worth the time and effort to go through the online coursework to find those hidden gems - tips, ideas, and mindsets that help you truly transform teaching and learning for students using technology.

There are many supports for teachers engaging in the process out there - I created one for District 83 Teachers at bit.ly/gce1mms, but you can look into Eric Curts and Kasey Bell for a good foundation too.

However you choose to recharge and relaunch your teaching next year, I hope you have an enjoyable summer and make tech integration one of your ongoing goals! Enjoy your break!

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Manage "Reply All" messages in Gmail

Please note: this tech tip is not in response to any specific individual's actions - it is simply an often-requested technology tip and etiquette question from teachers.

Muting Reply All

Occasionally we all find ourselves on the receiving end of group emails - and multiple replies - that do not apply to us.

To stop receiving replies to emails in an email chain, you can use the "Mute" function of Gmail:

1. Open the email message - either the original or any Reply All to it.

2. Click the three dots on the menu bar at the top of your inbox.

3.   Select "Mute"

This will prevent future replies to that email chain from reaching your Inbox.  Keep in mind, you'll then miss any future replies, so be very certain that there's no chance of missing something pertinent down the line.

Preventing Reply All on Emails You Send

If you are initiating a group email and want to prevent Reply All - for example, when emailing a group of students, you don't want them all replying to one another - @liblady83 recommends putting the recipients in the BCC field of the email instead of the To field:

1. In your new email, click the BCC field on the right:

2. Type the recipient(s), including Group email addresses, into the BCC field.

Keep in mind, BCC stands for "Blind Carbon Copy," which means none of the recipients will see who was BCC'ed. But that means they also won't be able to reply to anyone in the BCC field either.

And Now, a Word on Email Etiquette

Nowadays we all receive many emails, and it can be a daily struggle to filter through them all to determine which are a priority to us, which can wait, and which are deletable. That means it is also important etiquette to use discretion when sending messages to a large group.

When you click on the Reply arrow button in Gmail, it defaults to Reply - which sends your response just to the sender of that message. For many situations, this is the best option.

Clicking the three dots and choosing Reply All sends your response to everyone on original sender's email list. If it is sent to a Group email address, then everyone in that group will receive a copy of that message.

Reply All is a conscious choice that should be used when you have a question or comment that is pertinent to everyone, or at least  on the email chain. Some examples:
  • A logistical change that affects everyone - such as a time change for an event, a location change for a meeting, etc.
  • A question that multiple people in the group may want to give input on. 
  • All or most people on the chain need to be updated on future responses and shouldn't be excluded.
  • You are saying something that is appropriate to say to / in front of a large group (specifically, the group(s) you are emailing) and you need them all to hear it.
You definitely don't want to exclude people or groups from messages they need to hear. But good "netiquette" also involves being mindful of flooding inboxes.

For more perspective on the use of Reply vs. Reply All, as well as the CC and BCC fields and more, check out this blog post.

Happy Thoughtful Replying!

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Schedule Gmail Messages!

Gmail recently added a much needed feature: The ability to schedule your messages to send at a future date. Compose your email as normal, including recipients and any attachments.  

Instead of clicking "Send," click the dropdown arrow next to the Send button. There are pre-set times you can choose from, or select Choose the date and time to send. It must be at least a couple minutes in the future.

Here's what it looks like in action:

You can cancel the message by going to your newly created "Scheduled" folder on the left:

Either click the Delete icon (garbage can), or open the message and click "Cancel Send":

At this time, there doesn't appear to be a way to edit a scheduled message, but if you provide Google feedback, they may add that feature in the future!

Happy Scheduling!

Tech Tip: Filter Topics in Google Classroom!

If you have been using Topics to organize your posts in Google Classroom, you're in luck! Classroom just received an upgrade!  

On the Classwork page, the Topics you've created are now listed on the left side of the page.  Click a topic to filter your Classwork page to ONLY see posts in that topic.  Click "All Topics" at the top to see everything again.

Filtering only changes YOUR view during that time. Other students and teachers in your class still see everything, and can choose to filter and unfilter on their own screens. 

How do I Create Topics?

When creating a post on the Classwork page, you can select a topic you previously made, OR create a new topic on the spot. Just click the dropdown in the bottom-right of the pop-up:

If you already created a post, you can still Edit it and add a Topic!

Drag n' Drop to Rearrange Posts

Click, drag, drop your posts to move them from Topic to Topic!  

If they don't have a topic, they will go to the top of your Classwork page.

Quick Grading with a Rubric in Google Classroom - Even for Non-Digital Work

Use your own rubric to quickly grade and give feedback in Google Classroom - even if the student work wasn't turned in there!

1. Post your rubric as an "Assignment":

2. Make sure each student gets a copy:

3. Assess!

Want a copy of this rubric? Click Here: bit.ly/1ptClassroom

Grade smarter, not harder!

This particular rubric was created in Google Sheets. It uses Checkboxes and Conditional Formatting to create one-click highlighting for easy grading and easy reading.

If these features are not important to you, you can of course use Google Docs.
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I used Sheets for this because when giving feedback to 150 students, I want to streamline things as much as possible. I save every second I can by reducing the number of clicks and reducing the number of times I move my hands between keyboard and mouse.  If there is a piece of feedback I give commonly, I type it out somewhere else and have it ready to copy/paste.

The rubric style itself was created in the Single-Point Rubric format. If you're not familiar, check out that link as well as the original Your Rubric is a Hot Mess blog post, both by Cult of Pedagogy's Jennifer Gonzalez.

Tech Tip: The Power of Paste Formatting!

Save yourself a LOT of clicks by copy/pasting the formatting only (font color, size, etc) from one location to another in G Suite Apps:
  1. Click the text that has the formatting you want.
  2. Double-click the "Paint Roller" icon.
  3. Paste that formatting only by clicking on the target text, highlight lines of text, or clicking the entire text box:

This can save a lot of time when trying to change formatting across an entire document.

One of my favorite uses is in Google Sheets: 

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Pro Tip: If you click the paint roller ONCE, it will then paste formatting ONCE.  If you double-click the paint roller, it will "stick" and you can paste your copied formatting multiple times. To turn the roller back off, click it one more time.
Happy Pasting!

Tech Tip: Link to Another Slide in the same Google Slides file

Create a more interactive experience, OR have students create a “Make Your Own Adventure” game in Slides!  To links to other slides in the same document, select some text OR click on an image, then use Command / Control + K (or the  icon) to make a link. Select “Slides in this presentation”.

You can turn images into links also, which makes for a great “back” button:


Happy Linking!
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