Showing posts from 2020

We Are Making a Square Peg Go Into a Round Hole

I've always enjoyed the movie "Apollo 13." There are so many good messages in it - about hope in a seemingly hopeless situation, about courage in the face of danger (and possibly even death), about creative problem solving for problems that are not "contingencies we remotely looked at."

This scene is where we are right now with education -

We have been asked to "invent a way to put a square peg in a round hole - quickly." And now we are in the room (or this course) looking at what is available to make that happen.  We have the resources, we have the tools...we now need to make it happen.  We are going to be innovative, creative, and make this work.  We are going to fail and have inelegant, imperfect solutions, but we will get solutions.  And we will continue to refine them until the emergency is over.

One of my concerns is - and this is something often seen with students working on a problem - if we spend time on a solution that we think is going to w…

Moving to Online Learning Be Like Building a House On Mars

My very first blog post ever was about 10 years ago (May 20, 2010).  It was titled Textbooks: the Curriculum Security Blanket.

I've been thinking about this post the last 24 hours as I prepare to help educators in local districts across 3 counties in my state rethink how they teach. This is such a high-anxiety time - our routines have been disrupted, our health (or our loved one's health) is at risk, daily life is DIFFERENT. We don't know how long this "disruption" is going to last, and we don't know how we will come out changed on the other side.

On top of all that,  educators are now having to contemplate how to be "teachers" with our students at home.  And we are falling back to our "security blankets" for in the classroom.  We are trying to bring the comfortable into this new situation, and it concerns me for our success.

Why?  I'm talking to educators that want to know what tool to use, and what content to get - they are focused o…

Technology Tidbit - Learn to Draw...

(Part of our Stay-At-Home series focused on practical ways you can use a resource to foster creativity, connections, and collaboration.)

...or another new skill!

There are many artists sharing weekly or daily lessons that anyone can access. Here are a few that you might want to check out:

Draw Everyday with JJK - author & illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka has created a YouTube channel where he is sharing drawing lessons every day.  Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems - this Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence at Home; he even has some episodes where he shares what kids have drawn and shared back with him!Sight Reading Factory - get your music on! Practice that instrument or sing a song - they are providing unlimited exercises! Take Art Lessons - Artyfactory's free art lessons share the knowledge and understanding of art and design to improve your artistic skills and to increase your enjoyment in creating artworks.DIY Film School - improve your videography skills using the ope…

Technology Tidbit - Video Resources

(Part of our Stay-At-Home series focused on practical ways you can use a resource to foster creativity, connections, and collaboration.)

There are many organizations that are offering video resource (or TV programming) each day which may be useful to parents and teachers.  Here is a short list of a few that are freely available you may want to check out:
Public television (and their companion websites) are changing programming to focus on materials for K-12 Students at home until further notice.  PBS stations have blocked out time for each level - 7-9am is PBS Kids materials appropriate for 2-8 year olds; 9am - 1pm is for students Grades 4-8; 1-6pm is for students Grades 9-12. Additionally many have companion resources that can be used with the programming. PBS Learning has resources and learning activities in most subject areas.  Students do need to make a (free) account if they do not already have one. Discovery Education is providing daily learning activities for parents & teach…

Technology Tidbit - Get Outside!

(Part of our Stay-At-Home series focused on practical ways you can use a resource to foster creativity, connections, and collaboration.)

Parents - There is a growing body of research that shows being outside in nature can have positive benefits for our mental well-being.  With what we are dealing with currently, I think we all can use activities that are good for our mental health.
Go for a walk There are many activities that you can do while walking.  Here are some suggestions to make it an learning adventure:
Make ObservationsHave kids share or journal what they experienced with their senses during the walk.  For instance, today I saw our mating crane pair was back from the south, I felt my face warm on one side from the sun and cool on the other from the wind, I heard the frogs that have returned to the creek.  You could even showcase a sense a day!Observe the clouds, the weather, wildlife, insects, amount/types of trafficLook for patterns - both in nature and manmade  Collect Data …

Technology Tidbit - Museum Treasure Troves

(Part of our Stay-At-Home series focused on practical ways you can use a resource to foster creativity, connections, and collaboration.)

Maybe during our stay-to-home time is the best time to travel to other states or even other countries, just to visit Museums that we may never get the chance to see in person!  Museums both have had, and have been adding, lots of resources for parents, students and teachers the last several years.  Some of these include:

Virtual Tours Apparently there are now 2,500 museums that offer virtual tours from home.  It would take a long time to visit all of them! You can find many of them through Google Arts & Culture.  Take, for example, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  You can view many of the paintings viewable there - without the crowd - and even learn a bit about them from information added on the page.  Or go to Rome and see the Sistine Chapel. Here are some ways to you might engage students through a virtual tour:

Have students expl…

Technology Tidbit - Keep them writing!

(Part of our Stay-At-Home series focused on practical ways you can use a resource to foster creativity, connections, and collaboration.)

Continuing to write can be very important for students (and adults) right now, not just for learning but also for our social/emotional health.  Writing can help all of us work through emotions, and deal with the uncertainty of the situation many of us find ourselves in currently.  Yet, as many teachers can attest, it can be HARD getting students to start writing.

Here are some ideas/resources that can help encourage your child to write:
Multi-day writing Journaling example- COVID-19 Pandemic: "chronicle the changes you observe as your community, the country, and the world respond to Covid19" This document includes a variety of modification for elementary, students with special needs, and even one with added social-emotional reflection questions.  It can be helpful for students to process through their experiences and what they are hearing an…

Technology Tidbit - Ways to Use the eBooks/Audiobooks

(This is the start of our new Stay-At-Home series focused on practical ways you can use a resource to foster creativity, connections, and collaboration.)

There are a variety of companies providing eBooks and/or Audiobooks for parents and educators while students are not able to attend their schools.  But, what can you do with them - or any book for that matter?

Teachers: Here are some ideas for ways eBooks or Audiobooks can be used to connect with your students.
Share a link to one of your favorite books in your communications with your students, along with why it is one of your favorites.  Invite students to read or listen to it, and invite them to share back a link to one of their favorites.Encourage students to create their own "audiobook" recording of a book for elementary school students (you may give some examples of appropriate books), which you can then share with your elementary teachers for sharingInspire students to create a book report on what they are currently re…

Google Mail - Assigning/Deleting Labels

Once you have an understanding of labels, using them makes more sense.  Here is how to assign & delete them as you want.

To add a label to an email, either when looking at your email list OR inside the email itself, you can click on the label icon at the top of the window -

When you click on it, you will see (1) a list of your existing emails.  You will also see (2) where you can create a new label on the spot -

Because these are labels (NOT folders), you can assign as many as you would like.  Once you have selected all the labels you wish to assign the email, click on Apply -

The email will now appear with the label next to the subject line -

If you do not want the email to stay in your Inbox, you can select the "folder" icon next to the label icon.  This will allow you to assign one or more labels to the email, AND at the same time remove the Inbox label so it no longer shows up in your Inbox - 
The list of labels should look familiar - it is exactly the same, it just …

Google Mail - Adding a Person to Your Email Contacts

There are 2 ways to have people you email (or that email you) added to your email contacts list. 

If you wish for contacts to automatically be added,  you can go into your Google Mail settings and under General, find this option down the page just above the Signature area -

If you prefer to add them manually, when in an email of someone you wish to add to your contacts, click on the More menu (stacked 3 dots) on the right side of the email -
 Select to Add the person to Contacts list - the 5th item down the menu -

That's it!  Going forward that person's email will show up as part of an auto-fill when typing their name.

Google Mail - Create an Event from an Email


There are many time I get an email that I want to make into an event on my calendar - both to make sure I block out the time, and to move the information out of an email in my inbox into the event.

There is a feature called "Create event" that let's you do this - it is available in the More options when you are viewing the message.

Once you select create event, Google opens up a new window, loads your calendar, and creates an event with the message subject as the name of the event, and the body of the message as the description within the event:
You are then able to edit the date/time and other information as needed to finish creating the event.

One adds everyone that was part of the message to the Guest list (see above in red box), so unless you want it to be a group event you will need to click the x next to everyone's name but yours.

Google Mail - Add Email to Task List

If you use the tasks list to help keep track of what you need to do, making a task from an email is an easy "task" to do. 

Here is how to add an email to your task list.

When in the email, you can either
-go to the More Menu (3 stacked dots) at the top above the email and select Add to Tasks OR

-use the keyboard shortcut of Shift + t
Either method will automatically create a task. This will open up your task list on the right side of you screen:

When you mouse over the task it created, you will see an pencil that can be clicked on to edit the task:

When editing, you can edit/see all the following:

The title of the taskDetails you want to add to the taskWhich task list it is part ofDate/time of task (will add to calendar)SubtasksDirect link to the email used to create the task - so you can reference it

Google Mail - Marking Email as Read or Unread

There are many ways to mark emails as read or unread.  (Q: What is the difference between read or unread emails?  Unread emails are bolded so they stand out.)  You can use any of these methods to change the state of any email.

If you have the "Hover" turned on in your settings, when you hover over an email that is in the main window some icons appear to the right side.  The third icon will change the state of the email - closed envelope to change to unread:

Or open envelope to change to read:

At any time, if you check next to one or more emails (if mass changing them) you can go to the top More menu (3 stacked dots) and change from the current state to unread or read:

When inside a message you can click on the More menu (3 stacked dots) found on the upper right side of the email underneath the print icon to change it between read and unread:

Finally, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:

Google Mail - Understanding & Creating Labels

One of the hardest concepts when transitioning people to Google Mail from a software-based email application is the idea that all mail is "in" one location.  In thinking of email in a traditional sense (like snail mail), we think of sorting it "to" locations.  It is in the inbox, in the trash, in a folder, etc.

When using Google Mail in the web, all your mail is in one location (I think of it as being a junk room full of my email).  Instead of organizing the emails "into" folders, we actually are tagging emails to make them easier to find (think of it as putting stickie notes on them).  This gives us great flexibility as emails can have multiple stickie notes on them - and I do not have to remember "where" I put them!  An example - an email in my inbox has a tag of "unread" (which makes it bold) and Inbox (so it appears when I click on Inbox).

This brings us to labels - these are the tags we want to create and assign to our emails.  An…

Google Mail - Print Email

If you need to either print your email, or save it as a PDF, there are several ways to accomplish this.

When viewing the email, you can either click on the printer icon in the upper right:
 Or you can click on the More menu (3 stacked dots) and select Print there:

Or you can use the shortcut:

Using any of those methods, it will open a print preview window:

You can:

Change which printer is selectedSelect which pages to printSelect the number of copiesChange the layout (portrait vs landscape)Display more settings When you click on the Destination (which printer), you have options to save the email as a PDF or to Google Drive as well:

Under the More settings, you can adjust other settings, including scaling the document and turning on/off headers & footers:

Once done, clicking print will print the document with your preferred settings (or save it to PDF or Google Drive).

Google Mail - Advanced Searching

...otherwise known as finding what you want when you want it.

(Updated at 8:58 am EST - less than 20 minutes after it was posted!  There is a change with the suggestions made during searching now that should show up for you soon if they don't yet. The addition is in a rust red color below.)

The number 1 biggest frustration expressed to me with Google Mail is finding an email.  There is a solution for this - the advanced search available that is hidden behind the little down arrow at the right end of the search bar:

If you click on that, you get this pop-up window -

Put the information you know in the appropriate places (in my example, I'm looking for an email from my husband, received during the 2015-2016 school year about evaluations but I don't know what the subject line was) -

THEN run your search, and you should see better results (in my example, here is the email I was looking for) -

The following field are what you can search:

From: the email of the person that sent …

Google Mail - Compose view: pop-up vs full-screen

Perhaps you would prefer to have a larger window when composing email, or perhaps occasionally need a larger window to see more of the draft message.  Here is how to switch between views with Google Mail

When composing a message, the default is for it to be in pop-up view.  To extend the window into what is called "full-screen" click on the middle icon of arrows in the upper-right corner:

Please notes - this will extend the window to be larger, but does not truly make it full screen.

To shrink back to the pop-up view, click o the middle icon of arrows in the upper-right corner (the arrows will be pointing towards each other):

If you find that you prefer the larger window to compose email in, you can set it as your default by going to the More menu (3 stacked dots) and selecting "Default to full-screen":

Likewise, if your email is already set to the default of full-screen, you can turn it off by going to the More menu (3 stacked dots) and de-selecting "Default …

Google Mail - Saving & Finding Drafts

Sometimes when people discover their Draft label, they realize they have a LOT of drafts saved.  Here's a quick overview of how drafts work in Google Mail.

When you are creating an email, it is auto-saved periodically.  You can note this as at the top of the email in the title bar it will say "Draft Saved" periodically instead of the subject of the email.

These emails are tagged with "Draft" so can be found by clicking on the Drafts label on the left side (which remember - is actually a quick-search...)

To save an email you are working on as a draft, click on the X in the upper right corner.  (Note that it says Save and Close when mousing over it.)

You can see how it is easy to inadvertently end up with many drafts if closing an unwanted email instead of deleting it (trash can at the bottom).  However, once you know this, it is convenient to quickly start an email you want to complete later and not clutter up your screen with open compose windows.

If you prefer…

Drones for Good: Drones in the Classroom

Guest post by Kerry Guiliano at Monroe County ISD:

A new trend on the horizon in education are drones in the classroom. Drones in the classroom, you say? Why and how could this even be possible? First of all, I’m not talking “50-pound cost thousands of dollars” type of drones, I’m talking about small drones that weigh roughly 12 oz, fly no more than 30 feet in the air (if that), have a short battery life, and do not cost an arm and leg. Drones that can be used INSIDE the classroom.

But why drones? We’ve seen some pretty cool things happening in the drone community. In my neck of the woods (Monroe County, Michigan), both Sylvania Minerals Quarry and Stoneco Quarry use a drone to measure and keep track of their stockpiles. Farmers are using drones to monitor crops, assess soil, and spot invasive plants that they can then target in certain areas instead of treating their entire crop, saving time and lots of money. Amazon recently stated that they are looking into drone delivery systems (…