Balancing time to learn with time to practice.

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One of the common requests that I hear from our 1:1 implementation is “I need more time to learn about these tools before implementing”. What’s difficult is that an equal need and request from teachers is “I need more time to practice what I’ve learned so I can begin implementation”.

So how do you balance your professional development to meet both the need to learn the tools and effectively integrate, but also give adequate and effective time to practice using the tools for implementation? I like to think of it in simple terms, such as building a house. When you first start building you want to see walls. You want the structure to take shape so you can begin visualizing your individual rooms. But that isn’t the first step. The fist step in the process is to lay the foundation. Without a strong and solid foundation your walls wouldn’t stand very long. In the Instructional Technology world, this is the primary training portion of professional development. As teachers we have a drive to put things into practice. It’s hard for us to sit through a training without being actively involved. We are constantly linking the information to relevant applications in our own classrooms. But without this necessary training, specifically on how to use these tools in the most impacting and effective way for our students, it’s hard to put this into practice with the desired results. That is not to say that teachers could not see a list of Instructional Technology tools and websites and create meaningful instruction from it without instruction. However, there is a learning curve to many tools where instruction on how to implement, or to phrase this better, how to enhance and change your instructional methods, can be the difference in seeing a positive outcome for your students or just a waste of time.

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Once the foundation is set, once the ideas are sparked and the instructional strategies have been explained, then it’s time for effective practice. But what does this look like? Is this time for individual practice in your classroom to begin putting these tools together on your own? Is it time with your department or grade level to collaborate and begin building a plan of how these strategies and tools can be implemented to enhance your instruction? Is it guided work with the Instructional Technology Specialist available to guide and answer questions? I believe it’s a combination of all of these. Collaboration as a department or grade level is important. Teachers work best when they can bounce ideas off of each other. As a department, the conversations will be focused and relevant to their implementation. But they also need guided instruction. Even with the foundation set it’s vital to have the blueprints and tools available to refer to when needed. As you begin working with these tools you will inevitably have additional questions. “I want to do this, but how?” “Is there a way to use this tool to fit my need?” These questions along with guided instruction are vital to making the technology meet your instructional needs, and that is the most important aspect of a successful program.

I think there are 4 key steps to successful professional development for new initiatives:
1. Lay a solid foundation of your key elements through initial training. Focus on effective use of the strategies and tools. Assess your audience often to control pace.
2. Allow time for collaboration and discussion of the new strategies and tools. For some this may include a work phase to begin planning and designing. For others this may be simply a discussion to work out the details and plan for the next design phase.
3. Provide guided work sessions with experts available to answer questions and guide ideas towards effective and impacting implementation.
4. Provide ongoing support for staff after implementation. This support is more narrowly focused on individual and small group needs.

We all want to jump right in and get to work. Often though it takes a strong knowledge of the tools to make the effects lasting. Finding the balance point between the two for your staff can make all the difference in feeling supported and ready rather than frightened and hesitant!

Google Add-ons make Flubaroo even more useful!

Flubaroo has always been one of my favorite and most used scripts for Google Spreadsheets. It allows you to have your quizzes, created using Google Forms, automatically graded. It also includes features for emailing results to students and much more. The only downside was that you had to install this script EVERY time you created a quiz. Well the new add-ons feature in Google Spreadsheets has finally resolved this issue! Now, when you install the Flubaroo add-on, you can always find Flubaroo available in every spreadsheet. When you create a quiz, simply click Add-ons>Flubaroo>Grade assignment and you can begin using the powerful features of Flubaroo.

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Check out a brief tutorial below on how to create quizzes using Google Forms.

BIG update to Google Docs and Spreadsheets

Google has just made a very big update to Google Docs and Spreadsheets. You can now use third-party add-ons in Google Drive. Why is this BIG? This allows third-party developers to create useful tools for Google Docs and Spreadsheets without waiting for Google to take care of it. Some of the first add-ons available are already adding much needed capabilities including label mail-merge and much more.

Check out the brief overview video below for more information.

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How to always choose Save/Download location in Chrome

Have you ever been browsing the web and found a file you wanted to download, however after clicking on the file you’re not exactly sure where it saved? It’s hard to keep all of these downloads from the internet organized if you’re not exactly sure where they are when you need them. Chrome has a setting that will prompt you for a save location every time you click on a file or item to download. This is very useful for keeping items in your organized folders for quick access later when you need them. You can find the following instructions in a Google Doc Cheat Sheet format here

1. Open up Chrome and Click on Settings

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2. Scroll down to Downloads and check the box that says “ask where to save each file before downloading”

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3. Now when you click on a file to download, Chrome will allow you to choose where that file will be saved.

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YouTube: Additional Tools and Features

Many of us use YouTube to store videos or to look up tips and tricks on just about anything. But did you know that YouTube also provides some other, powerful video editing tools? If you click on Upload after logging into YouTube you will gain access to some of these tools.

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With Webcam Capture you can record video using your webcam directly into YouTube. This sidesteps the process of creating the video and then uploading to YouTube. You can then use the editing features in YouTube.

Photo slideshow allows you to arrange photos in a slideshow video and then add audio, transitions and more. You can also insert videos in your slideshow intermingled with your photos. While there are many other sites on the internet for creating photo slideshows, the editing features and options in YouTube are quickly making this one of my favorites.

Google + Hangouts on Air allow you to start a live webcast. This is fantastic for starting a distance lesson online, presenting PD online, or even working with other teachers or students in a different state or country.

Finally, you have Video editor. This provides many powerful editing tools that let you splice together videos, edit your videos, add transitions, text, search for Creative Commons videos, add filters, and much, much more. Check out the video below for a quick rundown of these features or click HERE for a printable cheat sheet.

Mogees may have just completed my existence!

As a musician, and especially as a percussionist, the world is already my instrument. I tap, scrape, bump, and sing along with everything in nature. But what if I could make all of these actions have actual acoustic properties other than their natural sound. What if I could make everything an instrument of my choosing. Welcome Mogees. This is a game changer and most definitely an item that is going to change the way I perceive the world. If you are a musician, or just want to have a different, aural perspective of our world then I highly recommend you trying these out. Here is the kickstarter link: CLICK HERE

Interactive Ear

This is a great interactive tool for teaching the anatomy and function of the ear. I would have loved to have known about this when I taught music. I used to draw the parts of the ear on the board everyday and have students make human models. This would have been a perfect additional resource! (From Technology For Teachers @ freetech4teachers.com)

Check it out below or at the link HERE

The Interactive Ear

The Interactive Ear is presented by Amplifon

Create your own crossword puzzle and share it in minutes!

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Crossword lab is an online Crossword puzzle creation tool. You simply type in your word, put a space, add a clue, and hit enter. Repeat the process on each line for your other words. Within minutes you can create a crossword puzzle for your students to complete online. Thanks to Ms. Theresa Taylor for sharing this!

Start creating your own puzzles at www.crosswordlabs.com

Improve your Flipped Lessons with TedEd

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As teachers begin to “flip” lessons they usually start by simply filming their lecture and then posting the content online. The students watch the lecture at night and come prepared to work on content the next day.

Ted Ed allows you to enhance your “flipped” videos by adding assessment/comprehension questions, discussion starters, or even further discovery, all tied to your video. Ted Ed is simple to use. Once you register for an account at ed.ted.com, you can search for a video. This means you will first need to make sure that you have your lecture video uploaded to youtube. Once you find your video, simply click on “flip this video”.

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You can now add questions and discussion topics in a lesson tied around your original video. Another way to enhance your “flipped” classroom.

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To find out more about Ted Ed you can watch the short intro video below, or visit their site