February 20 OTMS Tech Newsletter: Google Add-Ons

Google Add-Ons are services that add features to Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms.  After installing an Add-On, you can access them in Docs and Sheets through the Add-ons menu, and the puzzle piece icon in Forms.


Form Limiter will turn off a form at a time a date you choose, or when the form has reached a number of responses that you choose.

FormRecycler is a Google Forms Add-On that allows you to copy questions from other Forms in your Drive.

Copy Folder is a Google Sheets Add-On that allows you to copy complete folders in Google Drive

Flippity is a Google Sheets Add-On that creates flashcards and quiz games.  It can also create random student groups from a class roster on a spreadsheet.

Save As Doc is a Google Sheets Add-On that will save the data from a Sheet into a Doc.  Each row of data is saved onto a separate page of the Doc.  This can make it easier to read the data by reorganizing each row of data onto a single page.  This works well for spreadsheets created from Google Form responses.

Doc to Form is a Google Docs add on that will create a Google form from the text of a Google Doc.  This is useful for creating forms from existing assessments.

February 13 OTMS Tech Newsletter

Google Slides will now import videos from Google Drive in addition to YouTube.

Blind Kahoot is a different way of using a Kahoot activity at the beginning of a unit to introduce material rather than checking for understanding or reviewing at the end of a lesson.

OpenEd is a directory of open educational resources (free) that can be browsed or searched by standards, grade level, or keyword.  This has the potential to save time searching the web for quality resources since this site has already curated many videos, assessments, and activities into one place.  OpenEd integrates with Google Classroom, which makes it easy to share resources with your existing classes.  When you find a resource you want to share with a class, click the Classroom link at the top of the resource listing and a window will open giving you the option to create an announcement or assignment and select which class you want to receive a link to this resource.  You will then have the ability to title the announcement and assignment and include any instructions before posting to Classroom.

Participate Learning contains a database of free and paid educational resources (apps, videos, and websites) that are reviewed by teachers.  These resources  are linked to standards and can be searched by keyword and filtered by content type and grade level.  By registering with the site, users have the ability to create their own bookmarks and collections of resources.  Search results will also show the resource collections of other educators.  Participate Learning also includes ParticipateChat, which maintains a calendar of educational Twitter Chats and hosts an interface for participating in Twitter Chats.  ParticipateChat also allows users to create resource collections from the links and resources shared during a Twitter Chat.

February 6 OTMS Tech Newsletter

Nearpod has introduced a new activity slide called Collaborate.  This slide allows students to post sticky notes to a shared board similar to Padlet.  Teachers can moderate the board and delete any inappropriate sticky notes.


Matt, Jamie, Allison, and I recently attended the Powerful Learning Conference hosted by the Missouri Professional Learning Communities Project. The conference focused on implementing the PLC philosophy in schools throughout Missouri.  From the several hundred Tweets generated during the conference, I have compiled a few highlights from Powerful Learning Conference in a Storify.


January 13 OTMS Tech Newsletter

New features were recently added to Google Classroom

  • The ability to assign work to individual students or groups of students (differentiation)
  • New email notifications for work submitted after the due date and re-submitted work
  • Improvements to integrations between Classroom and non-Google web tools

EDpuzzle helps teachers customize video content for their classrooms by giving them an easy way to edit video clips, add voice overs, and embed questions. Teachers can assign a video to a set of students and track students’ viewing history and quiz results.  EdPuzzle integrates with YouTube and Khan Academy and easily allows you to search for and annotate these videos with audio, comments, and quizzes. EdPuzzle supports Google sign-in and integrates with Google Classroom.

There are still district licenses available for Nearpod.  Nearpod is an online presentation, blended learning, and assessment tool. Nearpod sessions can be teacher-led or assigned to students for independent or collaborate completion.  Assessment data is shown immediately to the teacher and saved in a printable report.  Fort Osage has purchased a district license to Nearpod which provides access to all Nearpod features and question types, along with a district library to facilitate the sharing of Nearpod presentations/assessment.  Contact me if you are interested in learning more about Nearpod or getting a district Nearpod license.

January 9 OTMS Tech Newsletter

EasyBib has changed their privacy settings and student accounts using the @student.fortosage.net Google sign-in will no longer work.  Students can create an account using EasyBibEDU by following these steps:

  1. Go to https://edu.easybib.com/auth/register/osagemsmo or click the EasyBibEDU Registration OTMS link in Clever
  2. Create a unique username that does not contain any identifiable information
  3. Create a password
  4. Use https://edu.easybib.com/auth/login or the EasyBibEDU Login link in Clever to login to EasyBibEDU in the future

If you prefer to share a video with your students, I have created a two-minute screencast that walks through these steps. Teachers can still log in to EasyBib with Google.  I have the ability to reset student EasyBibEDU passwords if they forget a password.

For the next few weeks, I will be sharing some “tried and true” web tools.  Although some of you are already using these tools, they are worth sharing again–either as a reminder or as an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with the tool.  These tools are linked on the OTMS Instructional Technology Resources site.

Actively Learn allows you to annotate and assign texts to classes of students.  Students can create accounts with their Google login and join your classes with a class code.  After you import a text (as a Google Doc or PDF), you can insert questions, notes, or links anywhere within the text.  Students must answer questions inserted in the text before they can move ahead to the next section of text.   Additional resources are available in their blogresources page, and help center.

NewsELA is a familiar tool to many of us that contains news and current event articles at a variety of reading levels.  Each article is rewritten in five reading levels, allowing the whole class to read the same article (at different levels) and participate in the same follow-up activities. NewsELA supports Google sign-in and integrates with Google Classroom.

Teaching Blogs as a Non-Fiction Text

My experiences as a librarian and tech coach met at an intersection earlier this week as a seventh grade ELA teacher and I were helping her students set up their own blogs for the purpose of publishing their writing to an authentic audience.  A few minutes into explaining how to create their student Blogger profiles, I realized that most of the seventh graders in the room had likely never seen a blog and certainly never explored the organizational structure common to most blogging platforms.  I quickly made a comparison between the organizational structures of printed books and online blogs, and then prepared a more organized presentation for her second and third classes who were completing the same activity later in the day.  My primary shortcoming in coaching this teacher was not missing the fact that her students were unfamiliar with the structure of blogs–my failure was that I did not suggest that she spend some time teaching blogs as she would any other non-fiction text before asking her students to create their own blogs.

I realize that all blogs are not non-fiction, and many contain clear examples of fiction writing at best, and highly biased information at worst.  When I say non-fiction, I am referring to the organized structure that accompanies most non-fiction writing.  Tables of content, indexes, tables, charts, captions, etc., can be directly compared to navigation panes, widgets, information pages, posts, archives, and feeds–thus blogs have more structural similarities to non-fiction texts than to fiction texts.  Talking about blogs as information sources also opens the door for digital literacy conversations, which are even more important in an online environment.  While a student has access to a professionally curated non-fiction library at school, they are the primary curator of the material they access online.  Blogs present great opportunities to teach fact and opinion, bias, evaluation of sources, intended audience, purpose, and author tone, among other elements of writing.

I remember teaching basic non-fiction text features to my elementary library students as they explored a variety of books and reference materials.  The purpose of this instruction was to familiarize them with the structure of informational texts and help them access, read, interpret, and evaluate non-fiction texts in the future.  Blogs are certainly not a new format, and I see no indication that they are reaching the end of their life cycle–so are we addressing this growing informational text structure with the attention necessary to equip students to consume, evaluate, and respond to the information communicated within blogs and the Internet at large?

As fake news currently receives heightened attention following the election, we are reminded that misinformation is not only being presented, but this misinformation is being intentionally presented and shared with the intent of persuading the audience with false and exaggerated information.  Our students do not have to find poor informational sources, these sources will find them in their daily journies through social media and online spaces.  Using blogs as a teaching tool is not only about understanding the organization of information contained within the site, it is about navigating through the information itself with the critical thinking skills necessary to detect good sources from poor sources–which has always been the objective of any teacher charged with guiding students through the research and writing process.

OTMS October 24 Newsletter

The ISTE Student Standards were refreshed last year and the new Student Standards were  introduced over the summer.  The new standards reflect the suggestions made by students, teachers, and administrators as they anticipate future shifts in education and the role technology will play within instruction.  More details about the philosophy behind refreshing the standards are available in this article and the new standards are published on the ISTE website.

MobyMax is now fully operational (a few subjects weren’t working correctly).  MobyMax is now integrated with Clever, allowing students and teachers to access MobyMax without a separate login.

Diffen is a website I recently discovered that will support the strategy of comparing similarities and differences.  It is setup similar to a search engine, but requires two search terms.  Those two terms are then compared in a table.

Registration is still open for EdcampKC–there were still 21 available slots as of Friday morning.  It will take place Saturday, November 5 from 8am to 4pm at Truman High School.   https://edcampkc.wikispaces.com/

Investigating Instructional Rounds

I have made several attempts over the past two years to encourage teachers to connect with educators outside of the building–but I missed a step.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was assuming that teachers were already connecting with other educators in the building.  Or, I was underestimating the interactions that I saw as connections built on trust and focused on a common goal to improve instruction and learning.  Was I really listening to the conversations between teachers?  Where those participating in the conversations truly engaged or just complying in an effort to outlast the meeting?  In all the talk about student engagement, what about teacher engagement?  What does that look like?  How do you assess quality teacher engagement?  And how do you support those who truly want to engage with other faculty members in deep and focused conversations aimed at improving student learning?

At the beginning of the year, the instructional facilitator and I were brainstorming ways to spend more time in classrooms and replace a culture based on a fear of evaluation and judgment with a culture of support and collective learning.  We set a goal to visit every classroom in the building as a first step.  As we discussed this, we thought it be great to eventually bring other teachers along with us during future classroom visits.  After some investigation, we discovered instructional rounds as a possible model to facilitate this cultural shift.  After some reading and connecting with other educators who had utilized rounds, we decided to implement the rounds in phases, giving us time to explore rounds and customize the practice to the needs of our learning community.

  1. The instructional facilitators visit each classroom and plan the instructional rounds debrief process and prepare for stage 4
  2. The instructional facilitators will read Instructional Rounds in Education and Leading Instructional Rounds in Education for guidance in implementing rounds
  3. The PLC will participate in an article study* and discussion to prepare for phase 4
  4. The PLC will practice the debrief process after watching a short classroom video
  5. The instructional facilitators will bring PLC members along with us to refine the process including the debrief process and norms. We will also be exploring problems of practice that are present throughout the building.
  6. The facilitators and PLC members will take other teachers on rounds with us and facilitate the debrief process. We will focus these rounds on the problems of practice that we define in phase 4

I know this process is subject to multiple changes and course corrections, and many adjustments have already been made in the recent weeks.  I’m anxious to see the process unfold and facilitate opportunities for our staff to improve their instructional skills in a collaborative setting.


#ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 5 and Beyond

I have enjoyed interacting with other #ETCoaches for the past month as we have strengthened our PLN through sharing thoughts and experiences as part of the blog challenge.

As a result of the challenge, I have two goals.

  1. Read the blog posts that are shared through the #ETCoaches hashtag when I see them, rather than planning to read them later–which rarely happens.
  2. Continue commenting on blog posts.  Before the challenge, I never took the time to comment.  I’m beginning to realize that a simple comment or response can be a huge encouragement to the author, and the author wouldn’t be sharing if he or she didn’t want interaction on the topic.

Thanks again to Penny Christensen for organizing the challenge and coaching us through the process of growing our PLN and sharing our voices!


Even thought the #ETCoaches blog challenge is complete, we can still continue the conversation in several ways:

  1. Tweet with #ETCoaches and add a column for #ETCoaches to Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or your preferred social media dashboard
  2. Share your future blog posts with #ETCoaches and explore the links shared by others.  Take the time to comment on future blog posts.
  3. Follow @EdTechCoaches through Twitter
  4. Join the EdTech Coaches PLN for our upcoming book study of “Integrating Technology in the Classroom” by Dr. Boni Hamilton.  All registered participants (ISTE membership required) will receive an ePub copy of the book.  Registration opens November 28 and the study runs January 17-February 24.  We will discuss the book through a Twitter slow chat using the #ETCoaches hashtag.
  5. Attend a monthly #ETCoaches Playground webinar.  These webinars are led by PLN members who presented at the ISTE 2016 EdTech Coaches PLN Playground.
  6. Participate in the PLN discussion boards (ISTE Members).  The discussion boards are great for questions or answers that require more than 140 characters and all responses are threaded with the question, making the conversation easy to follow.
  7. If you are a Voxer user, join our #ETCoaches Voxer group by contacting Lisa Hervey (@lisahervey) and she will add you to the group.
  8. Participate in the #ETCoaches monthly Twitter Chats.  They occur on the last Tuesday of the month at 1pm and 8pm EST.  Follow @EdTechCoaches for updates and reminders.
  9. Join and participate in our Google+ Group
  10. Host an EdTech Coaches PLN meeting at your local or regional conference.
  11. Visit the EdTech Coaches PLN Library.  The library contains archives of Twitter Chats, Webinars, Book Studies, and Playgrounds.

#ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 4

I enjoy reading the blogs of other educators because it gives me the opportunity to hear them think out loud.  I tend to gravitate towards blogs that expose the thinking process and philosophies behind instructional decisions and tech adoption strategies.  This does not mean that I don’t benefit from the more “newsy” or tutorial based blogs, but I’m also interested in why a tool is being recommended and how it worked in an instructional setting.  I also benefit from hearing how other coaches solve problems common to the coaching practice.

I use Feedly to curate my blogs, which allows me to easily scroll through the most recent posts and click on titles that interest me.  I also created a custom search with Google Custom Search as a tool to search the blogs I follow in Feedly.  Feedly has a search function in paid accounts, but the Google Custom Search wasn’t hard to set up–and it is free.

Here are some of my favorite blogs (beyond those participating in this challenge) to follow (in no particular order)

  • I always find something new in the Edsurge blog.  I even subscribe their email newsletter, which I don’t do often to avoid inbox overflow.   Their posts contain a mixture of cutting-edge technology, entrepreneurial information, and great tools for teaching and learning.
  • Mindshift,  Edutopia, and GettingSmart contain a variety of thoughtful posts on many educational topics.  Although not always tech-based, posts are typically thought-provoking and promote new approaches to old problems.
  • Education Closet  focuses on arts integration and STEAM topics in an effort to support all teachers as they employ the arts in all content areas.
  • The Cool Cat Teacher Blog includes a lot of great content.  The author also publishes podcasts through the iOS Podcast App, which allow me to listen in while I’m driving.

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