5 Ways to Refresh Your Teaching and Tech-ing Practice this Summer

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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Tech Tip: Add a Timer to a Google Slide

Tired of trying to position your class timer so it doesn't block your Slides instructions?
Looking for an easy tool for Kagan Strategies?

Use this Google Slides / YouTube hack to insert a timer that will play in your slide while it is in “Present” mode.

Use Insert >> Video, then search for a YouTube video of the length you need the timer to be. 

You can then resize, move, and copy/paste this video onto any slide.  You can also choose "Video Options" and determine if you want the video to auto-play on the Slide. (If you don't select this, you can click the video to start the timer while in Present mode).

Click Present and you've got a built-in timer!

Happy Timekeeping!
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Tech Tip: Gmail Settings You Need in Your Life!

A few settings can go a long way! 

My top 3:
  • Undo Send - you get 30 seconds to “Unsend” an email. Lifesaver!
  • Conversation Mode - group all replies to an email into one message.
  • Signature - customize how you sign-off on all your emails.

To access these Settings and many, many more:

Undo Send:  
Conversation View:
Happy Setting your Settings!
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Tech Tip: Checkboxes in Google Sheets

Google Sheets lets you turn a cell into a checkbox that you can toggle on or off.  

Just highlight the cells you want to have checkboxes, then choose Insert → Checkbox from the menu at the top.
(For my fellow Sheets Geeks out there who use formulas or conditional formatting, the value in the cell will be set to True or False based on whether you checked the box or not! )

Happy Checking and Unchecking!
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Tech Tip: Conditional Formatting in Google Sheets

If you liked adding checkboxes to Sheets, you’ll love being able to color-code based on whether the box is checked or not!
Highlight a group of cells and choose Format >> Conditional Formatting, then choose from the options.

Conditional Formatting lets you change fonts, colors, and formatting based on what is in a cell.
(Heads-up: checked boxes have a value “True” while unchecked boxes are “False”.)

You can do this with more than just text boxes! You can color-code based on dates, numbers, and text as well! 


Happy Formatting (Conditionally)!

Tech Tip: Create Instant Docs with .New!

If you want to quickly create a new Google Doc, try typing “doc.new” in your browser. A blank document will be created, placed in your Google Drive, and opened for immediate use.

Try it with most Google Apps by replacing “doc” with the name of the app. For example:

  • slide.new
  • sheet.new
  • site.new 

Pro Tip:  Immediately give your new doc a name, then click the folder icon to organize it in your Drive:

Combine this with Command+T or Command+N, and you can be a total keyboard warrior and make new docs in seconds without touching your mouse!*
*(on PCs and Chromebooks, it’s Control + T and Control + N)

Teach students this tactic for times when they quickly need to take notes, brainstorm, or begin a new assignment from scratch. It works best if they are already signed in to Google. 

Coach them to name and organize docs immediately so they don’t have dozens of “Untitled Documents” in their Drive!


Happy Keyboard Doc Creating!
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Tech Tip: [App Name] dot Google dot Com

[App Name] dot Google dot Com

Replace [App Name] with the name of any Google App and watch where it takes you! For example:

While Google Drive is where you organize all of your files and folders, you may sometimes want to just see one type of file - for example, all of your Forms.  

Typing [appname].google.com into the address bar will take you to a list of your most recent files in that type of app, sorted by the most recently opened.  

But wait - there’s more!  You’ll also get buttons to quickly create new files of that type - either from scratch or from pre-made templates.

This format also takes you to all your favorite Google apps:


Happy dot-googling! 

Tech Tip: Closed Captions in Google Slides

Google Slides recently added a powerful feature. When in Presentation Mode, you can now create real-time speech-to-text closed captioning that will appear automatically in your Slides!

While in Presentation Mode, click the “Captions” button:

Here's an example of what it looks like in action:

Reach out to me for ideas on how this can be used in your classroom!


Happy Closed Captioning, see you Next week!

Tech Tip: Set Start and End Times for YouTube Videos in Slides

You may already know how to embed a YouTube video into a Google Slide by using Insert → Video.

But what if I told you that you could choose the start and end points of the video, so viewers see only the portion of the video you want?!

After inserting your video into the Slide:
  1. Click the video.
  2. Click Format Options in the menu bar above.
  3. Set the Start, End, and Autoplay options on the right.
  4. Play in Presentation Mode to see it in action!

Keep in mind, if you share the Slides to someone, they can still open the video in YouTube and click around to watch the entire video if they want. But to display just a clip to your audience, this is a solid strategy!


Happy Video Clipping!