TwitListManager

If you’ve been on Twitter for a long time, you probably follow more people than you can possibly keep up with.  And, if you’re like me, it probably bums you out when you’re missing some good posts from some of the people that you really want to see everything from.

The solution is lists.  Create lists in Twitter that contain the “important” people or that relate to a certain thing (i.e., the school you work for).  Don’t worry: your lists can be private.

Well, if you’ve ever created lists in Twitter, you know that it’s clunky. TwitListManager is the best solution for that that I’ve found.  Go to the site, log into Twitter and assign all of the accounts you follow to certain lists.  Easy-peasy.

 

TwitListManager Animation

My strategy:

  • First, I have lists for my school district and my friends (I read every tweet in those lists).
  • Second, I separate everyone into Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.  Level 1 are the people who I really want to see posts from.  I try to read all of them.  Level 2 are people who I’d like to read the posts from, but they’re not a priority.  Maybe if I have to wait an hour in the doctor’s office waiting room…  Level 3?  Well, I’m just following them to be polite.😬 Sorry, if you’re in Level 3! 😬
  • Finally, I have some other lists that I use at certain times.  That includes things like the NFL Draft–I use that list for a few days every April–and Fantasy Football–I look at that lists on Sunday’s in the fall and when I’m setting my lineup.

 

The Draftback Extension

One of the earliest edtech tools that I recommended to the teachers involved in the Writing Ourselves project, which I am the Technology Director for, was the DraftBack Extension.  Once enabled, the extension allows you to playback your writing process for any doc that you are an editor on.  Obviously, the best use case for this would be to have students do this.

What a powerful way for students to reflect on their writing process and for educators to assess (and offer feedback on) the way that they go about the writing craft.  Awesome sauce.

Draftback animation

Creating a Restricted Access Group in the Google Admin Console

Let me start with this . . . I think the best thing that we can do for children in regards to the dangerous, disruptive and distorted content on the internet is to teach them to identify and avoid it.  However, some students have difficulties with this and during intermediary times while helping them to develop better/safer online habits, an alternative support may be necessary.

One option is to use a separate Google Admin Organizational Unit (OU) that is has restricted internet access.  In it, you can block all online content except for content that that you and your educators have identified as being a part of students’ learning experience.  (The last thing that you would want to do is limit or prohibit their learning)

To do this:

  1. Login to the Google Admin Console
  2. Go to Device Management > Chrome Management > User Settings
  3. Select the appropriate OU (Organizational Unit)
  4. Scroll down to the URL Blocking Section
  5. In the URL Blacklist section enter only a *.  This blocks ALL internet content.
  6. In the URL Blacklist Exception section, list every site that you do want your students to have access to.  Keep in mind that an address like khanacademy.org will unblock anything starting with khanacademy.org, including things like khanacademy.org/math.

A few tips:

  • When placing students into this group, you may need to move them in Active Directory in order for them to stay in the Google Admin Organizational Unit.  It all depends on your setup.
  • Maintain a Google Doc that teachers can access to see what sites are unblocked.  That way, they can double-check their sites that they intend to use . . . and send you additions.
  • Consider using an instructional piece about appropriate internet use to help students learn to make better choices so that they can be moved out of this group after an appropriate amount of time.

Again, this is not a perfect solution, but different students need different supports and scaffolds as we prepare them for their futures in our technology-obsessed society.

Note: These limitations will only be apply 1) in Chrome, 2) with the student logged into Chrome.

Stop Motion Slides

There are multiple options for creating animations (GoAnimate, Scratch, etc.) but my favorite way to do it is creating Stop Motion Slides.  I like that I can make it exactly how I want it in this format.  I think this has tons of potential in all subject areas (Please comment or share on Twitter with the hashtag #StopMotionSlides if you come up with any cool uses for it).

There are two main steps:

  1. Create a Google Slideshow where each slide is an incremental change from the previous one (like a flipbook).
  2. Open the slideshow up in Presenter view and use a screencasting tool (i.e., Camtasia, Screencastify, Screencast-o-matic) to record it as a video.

Here are a few of my tips for making it quick:

  • Ctrl+D or ⌘+D to Duplicate Slides
  • Use Arrows to Move Smoothly & Incrementally
  • Move in groups when appropriate
  • Rotate things incrementally
  • Change Colors gradually
  • Use Transparency
  • Use Ordering

I was a Coward

I knew it as it was happening, too.  A little voice in my head was yelling, “Don’t be a wimp!  You’re missing an opportunity!”  But I didn’t listen.

I had been frustrated with a quality educator whose mindset was blocking her from buying into a new initiative that was good for our learners.  I knew that the right conversations and experiences could ease her out of this mindset and help her move forward.

I had been thinking about it as I walked to the staff lounge to get my lunch. I was looking forward to grabbing my lunch and heading back to my desk to watch a few videos from my YouTube “Watch Later” list.  And then . . . there she was.  In the lounge.  Eating alone.  It was like fate.  A perfect opportunity to have a friendly trust-building conversation and ease into working on that mindset.

But that didn’t sound enjoyable.  So, I walked away.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but sitting there sounded uncomfortable.  Awkward.  I was a coward.

If your goal is to be a leader or a coach, a catalyst or a bus mover, you’ve got to have the uncomfortable, unenjoyable conversations.  You’ve got to take the first awkward steps at building rapport and trust.  Those awkward steps are uncomfortable.

The steps you take when walking away?  Comfortable.  Not awkward at all.  But they’re missed opportunities.

I missed an opportunity that day.  It won’t happen again.

Add Customizable Columns to Google Docs

One of the complaints from Day 1 with Google Docs was the inability to add columns.  Not too long ago, Google added this functionality, but it’s still sorely lacking in customizability.  So, here’s a workaround:

  1. Insert a Table
  2. Enter your text and images
  3. Make the table’s border 0 point (a.k.a., invisible)
  4. Find a microphone
  5. Drop it

Exploring the Number pi with Google Sheets & Forms

What better way to celebrate Pi Day than with a hands-on, tech-on exploration activity that helps students build their own understanding of what pi really is?  Well, probably a good piece of pie, but this is awesome nonetheless.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Get a bunch of fabric tape measures (using string and then measuring lengths on the string works too).
  2. Get a bunch of circular objects.
  3. Have kids measure the circumference and diameter of different circular objects.
  4. Instruct the kids to submit their measurements to a Google Form
    (note: my form doesn’t collect names, but it would be best to collect them so you can help kids who have measurement errors).
  5. Setup a QUERY formula to find the circumference/diameter for each entry.
    =QUERY(B2:C1000, “select B/C”)
  6. Fix that pesky 2 in the Query formula after the first submission – when the first entry inserts a row, it changes B2 to B3.  Change it after the first entry and you’re good to go.
  7. Setup an AVERAGE formula to find the mean of the circumference/diameter calculations.
  8. Project the spreadsheet as entries are recorded.  See what your kiddos notice about the numbers they see on their screen!

Locate your Collaborator by Clicking on their Icon

Wait, what page are you on?
I’m confused.  What slide are you referring to?
Ugh, what cell are you in!?

GSuite’s tools make collaboration–both between adults and between students–a piece of cake, but it can still be tough to keep up with one another, especially in lengthy Docs, Sheets or Slide decks.  Did you know that if you click on their icon it will jump you right to their location?  You’re welcome.

Check out the two GIFs below . . .

Click on Collaborator Icon to Locate Them Animation

 

Adding Images with Captions in Google Docs

Years ago, I heard plenty of complaints about how Google Docs just didn’t measure up to Microsoft Word.  My response always centered around the ways that Google Docs could change the way we worked and students learned.  Most people have bought in, but I still occasionally hear complaints about missing features.  One of them is adding captions to pictures – a major informational text skill in the English Language Arts standards.

Check out the GIF below to see how to use the “Insert > Drawing” tool to perform this task.

I should note, as has been pointed out that me on Twitter, that this process will reduce the quality of the image. I think that, for a student’s project it’s still okay. Just, you know, maybe not for your doctoral research paper or school yearbook.