Tag Archives: tools


5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

Whether you call it “fake news”, “misinformation” or the more innocuous “spin,” and whether you see this as an entirely new problem or the continuation of an already existing problem (think “War of the Worlds,” “Yellow Journalism” and “Dewey Defeats Truman”), one thing is clear: there is a powerful and pressing need to prepare our youth to make sense of the constant flow of media information that they consume everyday.  
As teachers, we need to be aware of how students are consuming their information.  Recent studies have shown that 69% of Americans get their news from Facebook, while other research suggests that social media such as Snapchat and Twitter are how millennials are staying up to date with current events.  Yet a study from Stanford University suggests that a majority of young Americans cannot accurately identify what content on a web page is news and what is advertising or paid content.
Have we as teachers moved to adjust how we instruct our students to evaluate information as the sources for that information have changed? This isn’t always easy, especially since the trends in social media are fluid and changing.   While there is no one silver bullet website that can resolve this issue, many helpful resources exist. Here are a few to help you get started in constructing your curriculum.

5 Tools to Help Evaluate Sources in a World of Fake News

The Stanford History Group: The Stanford History Group is well known to history teachers. Recently, they published an executive summary entitled EVALUATING INFORMATION: THE CORNERSTONE OF CIVIC ONLINE REASONING.  It provides a summary of the research they conducted in 2015-16 and includes samples activities geared towards middle and high school students designed to teach students to evaluate articles, comment sections, News on Social media, and website reliability.  It is a must read for teachers at any level.  The sample activities will have you thinking.  
Allsides:  Allsides allows readers to evaluate the bias of news articles collected from across online news sites. The site also features the ability for readers rate news sources and individual articles as LEFT or RIGHT leaning. Students can explore the overall ratings of sites or choose articles specifically from one perspective or another.  The site is great for making comparisons of topics from several sites.  

Politifact:  Politifact is the Pulitzer prize winning fact checking website created by the Tampa Bay Times.  It uses a “Truth-O-Meter” to rate the accuracy of politicians and parties.  During last year’s election, Politifact live tweeted during debates, quickly evaluating statements and statistics.  It was a helpful tool for class discussions. The site allows you to search for topics or individual politicians.  For each rating, the site offers an explanation of how they arrived at their conclusion.
Factcheck.org is a project from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.  In addition to evaluating the truthfulness of political statements, Factcheck has a viral spiral feature that addresses internet rumors, a SciCheck page that evaluates scientific claims, and an “Ask Us” feature that allows questions to be submitted for fact checking.  
Google Custom Search: If you can’t find the tools that work best for you, you can make your own.  Google Custom search allows you to select and curate websites that will be searched by your students.  Classes can create a standard for what sites they will use for a lesson or for research assignments and then add them to their custom search if it is determined that they meet the standard. This allows the class to be active and engaged in building a collection of trusted sources.   Individual students can construct a search engine for their projects, allowing them to go back and search sources again as their research evolves.   Teachers can save a variety of different searches which can be shared with students or embedded in websites.

It should be noted that Snopes.com is missing from the list above. The site has been evaluating online news, stories, and urban legends since the 1990’s. I omitted it not because it lacks any value but because while it is useful, it is so compelling that when I take students there they can sometimes get lost down the rabbit hole.
However you are preparing your students, one thing is clear — it is critical that we, as educators, consider how our students are accessing the news and information and how we can help them actively process all that is pushed to them through social media throughout the day.  

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4 Ways to Practice with Google This Summer

It is summer! A time to celebrate, relax, enjoy the beautiful weather, and keep learning! Summer not only allows teachers a mental break from the day-to-day routine of teaching, but is also an important time for all of us to continue our learning. While attending workshops and conferences are staples for many teachers, for others it is a busy and fast-paced season that can leave little time for focus on continuing learning. However, even during those busy and fast-paced times, it is a good opportunity for teachers to develop their skills for the next school year.
One way to accomplish this is to bring the power of Google Apps into your personal life. People often ask, “how did you develop your skills with Google?” The answer can be directly linked to using the tools, both inside the classroom and outside of it in my personal life. From planning a wedding, to organizing a shopping trip to the store, the power of Google can be a great benefit to all users. If the testament, “Practice makes perfect” is true, then practicing with Google in your personal life will make you more confident to use it with your students in the classroom!
To that end, I suggest four ways that you can practice with Google this summer to prep for the upcoming school year.

Learn to use the Bookmarks Bar in Chrome

The Bookmarks Bar is one of the most powerful features in Chrome and can streamline your web browsing experience as well as organize your online resources. If you do not see it under the Omnibox, turn it on from Chrome menu > Bookmarks > Show Bookmarks Bar.
Bookmark a Page
When you Bookmark a site, you create a link that directly takes you back to that location in one click.
Challenge yourself this summer by adding the bookmarks bar to your Chrome profile. Bookmark your email, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Facebook, Pinterest, and/or Twitter to get started. Of course, most importantly, you should also bookmark EdTechTeacher.org and visit us for many free resources and unique professional development opportunities! Applying this to the classroom in the fall could come in the form of teaching your students how to organize classroom resources or create Bookmarks Folders for research projects.

Plan a Party Using Google Docs

In the summer, everyone loves attending a BBQ or pool party. There is no better way to efficiently plan a party than with Google Apps, contact party & event venues in Galveston and plan one! To start, create a guest list with a friend who will be helping you plan the party. Create the list inside of a Google Sheet and practice adjusting the columns and editing headers. If you want to take it up a notch, enter a data validation drop down choice for those that have responded yes or no, and try conditional formatting to match who has RSVP’d. Watch this YouTube video on how to accomplish both tasks.
Also, share a Google Doc with your co-planner to keep track of items needed. If you are planning a bring-your-own-dish, go a step further and make the doc public on the web and invite all of your party guests to edit it and sign up to bring something tasty!
These skills of creating and collaborating will help you share and work with students and staff in the fall. By practicing in a low stress environment and learning with friends, you will be more confident with students and colleagues.

Make a short movie using your phone

It may be a fun day at the pool, or perhaps your children’s sporting events, but the summer is full of moments we want to remember forever. Use your phone to take a series of videos at one of your favorite events this summer, then upload those videos to YouTube Creator Studio.
YouTube Creator Studio, is a feature inside of your YouTube channel that allows you to edit your uploaded YouTube videos. Concerned that you don’t have a YouTube channel? Don’t fret, everyone that has a Google Account can set up a YouTube Channel in only a few clicks after going to YouTube.
Using video editing tools yourself can pay off big dividends for students when they are creating video on their own devices in the fall.

Build a Google Site

When the upcoming school year starts, teachers will be surprised with an updated version of Google Sites. While it is not yet available for all domains, or for personal accounts, it will be shortly. When the new update is released, teachers will be pleasantly surprised with its streamlined interface and integration tools. Everyone will now be able to create Google Sites in a much easier fashion.
Google Sites NEW
The challenge for this summer could be to create a new Google Site based on anything you are passionate about. Create a site for your child’s sports team or design a wedding website for a friend. You might even consider designing your classroom website for the upcoming school year. The possibilities are endless! Having a classroom Google Site can provide an area for students and parents to visit for the most up-to-date information of the ongoings in your classroom.
Entering into the world of Google Apps can be an overwhelming experience for many. By starting with these four activities, you will be able to gain valuable, practical experience in using some of the core Google Apps while in a low-stakes environment. Learning something fun this summer will not only bring you joy as you celebrate, but it will also help you gain the confidence to teach your students or colleagues later.

Come Learn more from Ben this year!

Ben will be a featured presenter in Boston and San Diego this year. He will be joined by other Google experts from across the country to share new ways to innovate student learning Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education.

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Top STEAM tools for Online and Offline Learning: Part 2

Last week, we looked at some of the top STEAM tools for online and offline learning by exploring web-based platforms and unplugged lessons and board games. With President Obama’s recent initiative to bring computer science to K-12 education and make computer programming a basic skill for all students, many of you will be on the lookout for new and interesting ways to bring these STEAM tools to your classrooms. This week, we’ll look at two new categories of tools, robots, and microcomputers and microcontrollers.


Writing code and creating video games in the classroom can be a gratifying experience.  However, there are few things in life more exciting to a pupil than writing a few lines of code, and then watching a robot come to life by executing that particular code.  Today, there is a growing number of robots on the market that can be used in the classroom by teachers and students, and help them explore a world of endless possibilities.

Blue-Bot By Terrapin ($129)

Blue-Bot is one of the three popular bots made by Terrapin.  The other two, the Bee-Bot and the Car-Bot are equally engaging and fun to work with.  Students can write a set of instructions and steps that Blue-Bot can execute, so that Blue-Bot can navigate itself successfully through obstacles.   Students can either punch the directions directly on Blue-Bot’s control panel, or use the free Blue-Bot app and upload their code via Bluetooth.  Terrapin offers a variety of maps teachers can use with Blue-Bot.  In addition, the Blue-Bot’s free app is very handy, as it allows teachers to create their own maps from pictures.  Furthermore, teachers can purchase direction cards on Terrapin’s website, to help students visualize the code they generate.

Ozobot 2.0 by Ozobot & Evolve ($59)

Ozobot Bit is a nifty little robot that can do some impressive things.  The size of a cherry tomato, Ozobot has the ability to read different wavelengths of light, which allows the tiny robot to accomplish some impressive tasks.  Out of the box, an Ozobot can follow lines and paths drawn by students on a white piece of paper, or on a mobile device’s screen, if students wish to use one of the two free Ozobot apps.  In addition, students can use the cards with pre-made mazes that come with the Ozobot, to learn about the different conditional statements that makes the Ozobots speed up, spin, and flash its lights in a specific way, among other things.  However, things can get way more interesting when students use Ozoblockly, Ozobot’s web-based coding platform.  On Ozoblockly, students can use visual programming to write code that enables Ozobots to do a variety of things.  The platform offers advance options such as tutorials, sample programs, and the ability to save and exchange projects between users, which fosters collaboration among students.

Dash & Dot by WonderWorkshop ($199)

Dash & Dot are two robots that are designed to work with each other to accomplish tasks.  However, students can use Dash or Dot independently.  Dash is the largest and the most sophisticated of the two, so naturally it is the robot that students will most likely spend more time working with.  Dash allows for some advanced calibration and personalization.  Students can choose from a variety of pre-recorded sounds, or record their own, customize the light features, select the free play option and navigate Dash through obstacles, and many more other features.  The robot is ideal for digital storytelling and social studies projects that include maps and navigation, but can be used in every discipline successfully.  Dash and Dot come with a variety of apps, some of which allow students to use visual programming and blockly language to code instruction.  In addition, WonderWorshop’s website has been recently updated to include lesson plans teachers can access by subscribing to WonderWorshop’s program.

mBot by MakeBlock ($79)

mBot is a programmable robot that will keep students and teachers occupied for a long time.  mBot is the only robot on this list, and one of the few on the market, that can be programed in Blockly, as well as in Arduino.  The Bluetooth version is very reliable and particularly handy to work with.  Overall, mBot’s quality of materials and reliability of software are above average when compared to its competitors. 

Younger students can use MakeBlock’s free blockly apps to program the robot using visual programming, or just navigate the robot with accuracy.  Older students and/or students with advance programming knowledge, can use Arduino to program mBot.  mBot will set you back $79, which is only 1/5 of the cost of Lego MindStorms, making a compelling case for schools with limited budgets, who want to incorporate a versatile robot with diverse capabilities.


One of technology’s most noticeable traits is that, as time goes by, tech tools become smaller and smaller.  Computer boards are no exception.  Today, there are numerous pocket size boards, such as microcomputers and microcontrollers, many of which are used in the classrooms.  Microcomputers are full-fledged computers that can run multiple programs simultaneously, while microcontrollers can only run one program at a time.

These small but surprising powerful machines can accomplish numerous impressive tasks.  Classrooms across the world use microcomputers and microcontrollers to teach STEAM lessons and coding.

Raspberry Pi Starter Kit ($59)

Raspberry Pi is perhaps the most popular microcomputer in the world.  The third iteration of Raspberry Pi that was released recently is a lot more powerful than Raspberry Pi 2 and has the ability to become the base of a variety of STEAM and IoT projects in the classroom.  With a Raspberry Pi students can build weather stations and cloud storage drives, they can code on scratch and Python, and even build a home computer.

Microduino ($99)

Microduino modules are easy-to-use electronic building blocks that help bring LEGOs to life. They are as small as a quarter, stackable with magnetic connectors, and Arduino-compatible.  Each module has its own function.  For instance, there are Wi-Fi modules, Bluetooth modules, GPS modules, and sensors modules, to name a few.  Just by simply stacking the modules you need, you can create your own projects such as drones, robots, GPS trackers, and even 3D printers. 

One of Microduino’s main goals is to turn people’s ideas into reality.  Its smaller form factor and modular features make it ideal for young inventors who want to augment their creations and add a little pizazz to their projects.  In addition, there is a fairly large Microduino community that can provide support to novice makers as well as STEAM classrooms.   

Arduino Uno Starter Kit ($65)

Another commonly used microcontroller, Arduino Uno is based on Arduino, the popular open-source platform, who’s ability to take basic input signals and change them into output commands has made it very popular among people who enjoy creating DIY projects.  As one can imagine, a device with such capabilities can be incredibly popular with STEAM classrooms as well as classrooms that foster a culture of makers and support innovative ideas.

Some Final Thoughts

Data from other countries that implemented similar initiatives show that one of the biggest challenges in bringing Computer Science to K-12 classrooms is the fact that most K-12 teachers have not received any formal Computer Science training.   Therefore, visual programming and blockly languages appear to constitute an excellent place to start. 

We, at Plato Academy, embraced this framework, and view it as an opportunity to introduce computer science to the classroom, in an attempt to equip our students with the best skills they need in order to thrive in the modern world.  It is our hope that all teachers and institutions will soon view Computer Science as an integral part of modern education.

To learn more about computer science in the classroom, check out Nik’s presentations at the Superior Tech for Teachers conference – happening later this week!

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Top STEAM tools for Online and Offline Learning: Part 1

A few months ago, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced a bold new initiative that aims to bring computer science to K-12 education and make computer programming a basic skill for all students.  The implications of this development can be staggering: STEAM will become much more widespread.  Soon, teachers around the country will teach students computational thinking, looping, conditional statements, and other high order programming concepts.

There are several tools and platforms teachers can use to accomplish this goal.  These tools range from web platforms, to robots, to manipulatives teachers can use to teach coding.  Some are more powerful than others, and offer different gains, expertise, and rewards, but they all have a place in the classroom. 



Code.org is an excellent free tool for teachers and students who have not had prior experience or formal training in computer programming.  Code.org brings a lot to the table.  Teachers can find a comprehensive curriculum with detailed lesson plans, many of which have been written with the inexperienced computer science teacher in mind.  In addition to one of the most structured curriculums around, code.org also offers a robust internal LMS platform called Code Studio, where teachers can create student accounts, monitor student progress in real time, and assign differentiated lessons and activities.  Furthermore, Code.org offers free training workshops for teachers almost everywhere in the United States, as well as web-based self-paced trainings.

Code.org has been criticized for being, at times, repetitive, and for limiting creativity by offering only scenarios with pre-determined outcomes.  Although there are strong arguments on both sides of the fence, most people agree that code.org has earned a prominent place in the classroom, and has done an amazing job in demystifying coding with many of its pioneering features such as the “Unplugged Lessons” and the “Hour of Code”. 


Several schools that have been teaching coding across the country have adopted the following trend:  teachers, following the gradual release of responsibility model, first use Code.org to introduce students to programming concepts, and then “graduate” them to a platform that offers more opportunities to unleash student creativity.  One such platform is Scratch.

Scratch, one of the first visual programming languages, and was created for the sole purpose of making computer coding approachable to younger audiences.  Scratch offers an open ended environment where teachers and students can create programs free of pre-determined outcomes, and unleash their creativity to create video games, interactive stories, and animations, among other things.  Scratch does come with a free classroom guide that helps get teachers and students become acclimated to the platform’s environment, and although the guide is not nearly as robust as Code.org’s curriculum, it does a superb job in helping students think computationally, and begin write complex programs.  Several schools around the world take advantage of Scratch’s powerful features and utilize the free web-based platform to teach programing concepts to children as young as 5 years old.


Unplugged lessons are coding lessons that do not require the presences of a device.  It may come as a surprise, but there are several board games out there that teach early coding concepts.  These games fall under the “unplugged lessons” category.  This is a brilliant idea, as coding board games reduce screen time, increase social interaction and collaboration, while encouraging students to use simple and advanced programming concepts such as order of operation, looping, as well as the use of variables and conditional statements.  Coding board games are also fairly inexpensive solutions, which makes them attractive to schools with small budgets.

LittleCodr ($19.99)

LittleCodr is a very simple board game that teaches young children the basics of programming.  It comes with five types of different cards called Action Cards – step forward, step backward, turn left, turn right, and a wildcard – that students can use to crate a path. The box also includes a set of cards with pre-determined paths called Missions that the students are expected to recreate using the action cards.  The game teaches students to code by creating step-by-step instructions, and if necessary, use debugging to correct any mistakes they made in the process.

Robot Turtles ($19.99)

One of the most popular board games for little programmers, Robot Turtles is ideal for teaching the fundamentals of computer programming to children as young as 5 years old.  The game comes with a board and a variety of cards called Tiles – robot turtle tiles, jewel tiles, bug tiles, and obstacle tiles – along with four card decks, one for each player.  The objective of the game is to use the code cards from the deck, to get a robot turtle to its matching color on the board, while avoiding obstacles and the all-annoying bugs.  Robot Turtles is very entertaining, as the rules dictate that players tap their bug tiles and yell “bug!” and make “funny turtle noises” among other things.  The game comes with detailed instructions that explain the basic game mode, as well as a number of modes such as Unlockables and Write a Program modes.  Overall, Robot Turtles constitutes a highly entertaining way to bring coding to the early childhood classrooms.

CodingFarmers ($39.99)

Coding Farmers is an ingenious coding adaptation of the popular board game Chutes and Ladders.  The game consists of a board and two sets of cards called Action Cards and Code Cards.  Action Cards contain instructions in English and in Java code.  Code Cards contain instructions in Java only.  The objective of the game is to navigate your pawn/tractor to the barn/finish.  Every time a player rolls the dice, he/she tries to make the best decision to avoid obstacles by successfully decoding action cards with instructions and conditional statements.  During the basic game mode players can use the actions cards and read the statements in English, while studying the respective Java statements.  However, in the advanced mode players are expected to use the code cards only, which will force them to use their knowledge in Java.  CodingFarmers can be quite challenging, as players are expected to manage and interpret complex conditional statements.  For this reason, the game is recommended for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students.  Last week, Mathandcoding, the company behind CodingFarmers, released a brand new game on Kickstarter called Treasure Hunt, which is a board game aimed to teach coding concepts to younger audiences.

Code Monkey Island (19.99)

Code Monkey Island is another board game that aims to teach little kids the basics of computer programming.  It is made of a board, 12 monkey pawns, 54 Guide Cards, 16 Fruit Cards and 10 Boost in a Bottle Cards.  Each player selects three random cards and he/she navigates three monkeys simultaneously.  The objective of the game is to guide all three monkeys to the banana grove at the center of the board.  The game teaches conditional statements and challenges the students to think abstractly in order to choose which card best applies to which situation.  One of the unique features of the game is that, aside from the rules, the instruction guide contains definitions and examples of several programming concepts such as variables, conditional statements, true/false scenarios, loops, etc. 

Bits & Bytes (£17.95)

Bits & Bytes is another inventive board game that teaches students the fundamentals of computer coding without using a device.  The game is made of two types of cards; Grid Cards and Instructions Cards, along with four Program Cards that serve as pawns, and four Planet Cards that serve as the finish line.  The objective of the game is to move the program cards/pawns to the planet cards/home, while avoiding bugs and walls.  The instructions include a basic game mode, as well as advanced rules and challenges for well-versed players.

Osmo Coding ($49.99)

Literally hot off the press, Coding by Osmo is a new unplugged activity that became available to the public during the last week of May 2016.  Although it works in combination with an iPad app, Coding by Osmo can be classified as an unplugged activity due to the fact that it uses manipulatives to create hands-on coding experiences for young children.  Coding uses Osmo’s ingenious idea of using manupulatives that can be “read” by the iPad’s camera with the help of a mirror, in order to interact with a program.  In this case, students use the high quality manipulatives to guide a video game character. In so doing, students write code that includes character movement in four directions, looping, and computational thinking.

There are more tools coming! Stay tuned for the next part in this series, where we talk about more STEAM tools like robots, micro computers and micro controllers. To learn more about computer science in the classroom, check out Nik’s presentations at the Superior Tech for Teachers conference this month!

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2 creative ways to use Google Slides in education

One of the staple tools in Google Drive is Google Slides. Typically viewed as a tool to create linear presentations, much like PowerPoint, there are potentially two interesting approaches to using Google Slides in the classroom that move beyond traditional linear presentation slides. One is a hidden gem inside of Google Slides that allows a user to create linked presentations slides, the other turns Google Slides into a published book online.

Google Slides: Choose Your Own Adventure

Beginning with the first creative approach to Google Slides, when published on the web, a set of linked Google Slides turn into a Choose Your Own Adventure style presentation. There is tremendous potential with linked presentation slides as students could leverage this technique when creating digital portfolios of their work. For example, a title slide can act as a table of contents with clickable elements that link to examples of their work. This would allow the viewer of the portfolio to select which elements of the portfolio they want to explore. A student in a science class for example, could also use this technique to explain a complex concept. The first slide of their Google Slides could be a plant cell with each section of the cell acting as a clickable link that connects to a slide further down in the slides with a detailed explanation of that particular concept. In this example, a student could use their clickable Google Slides presentation during a live presentation during class where they can click on any concept in the home slide to quickly jump to a more in-depth slide about that one concept.

Creating Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

The first slide acts as the starting point for the entire presentation. Insert an appropriate visual or text on the slide that will eventually act as multiple clickable links to subsequent slides. Then create additional slides that will house more detailed information, concepts, or visuals that will be accessed by clicking through the home slide.
To Create Links:

  1. Insert a Shape or image onto the home slide
  2. Adjust the settings of the shape to make it transparent
  3. Select the shape / image & click on the link option in the menu bar
  4. Change the linking option from hyperlink to “Slides in this Presentation”
  5. Select the appropriate slide to create the internal link
  6. Linking back – create a small shape or insert an image on each slide that either links back to the home slide or links to the next concept

google slides


Google Slides: Make Collaborative eBooks

The latter of the two approaches is rather simple yet quite powerful as it allows students to publish and share their work with a potentially worldwide audience. Approach each slide in a set of Google Slides as the page of a book. When the product is complete, the slides can be turned into a published online book in two steps. Combine this approach to Google Slides with the collaborative nature of the tool and the accessibility of Google Slides across devices, and it quickly becomes a collaborative publishing platform for students.

Creating Collaborative Published eBooks

In this approach Google Slides acts as a collaborative platform to create an online published book. Begin the process by created a Google Slide presentation and invite desired collaborators.

  • Each slides acts as a page in the book
  • Students with mobile devices can snap photos of offline work (drawings, paintings, sketches, etc…) that can be added directly to the book through the Google Slides mobile app.
  • Download the finished book as a PDF document
  • Upload the PDF document to Issuu from a laptop or Chromebook


Why Think Creatively With Google?

Google Slides present immense creative and collaborative potential. However, with a flexible mindset and creative approach, even more possibilities present themselves. The two examples provided in this post are meant to act as a creative kickstart to innovative ways of thinking about the use of not only Google Slides but any tool available within the Google Apps for Education and Google Drive ecosystem.

Want to learn more from Greg this Summer?
He will be on both coasts! ettsummer.org/greg

google slides

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6 Chrome Extensions Great for Students and Teachers

With Chromebooks gaining popularity in classrooms, many folks have offered guides on how to use some popular software like Microsoft Word and Office 365 on these otherwise seemingly stripped down machines. Though they may seem basic, Chromebooks and Chrome (as a browser for those not using Chromebooks) are probably more robust than you think. The Chromium project is an open source project for the browser and OS. Having open source code allows developers to make Chrome extensions for the browser that add features and enhance what your browser can do .
Chrome extensions run the gamut from games, gags, and pretty pictures to things that enhance your productivity, and make magic happen in one click. We’ve talked before about extensions that make thinking more visible, and others to generally enhance your browsing experience. The vast majority of extensions are free, and you can find them in the Chrome Web Store. We’ve collected 6 more that we think are worth taking the time to check out if you’re a teacher or student. Do you have a favorite that we haven’t included? Share with the Daily Genius community by leaving a comment below, dropping us a line on Twitter, or heading over to the Daily Genius Facebook Page and leaving us a note there.

6 Chrome Extensions Great for Students and Teachers


Readability aims to simplify your online reading by turning the content from the page into a simplified, clearer reading view. This can be particularly useful for students who are easily distracted by “all that other stuff” happening on the web. For all of us, it is easier on the eyes, and free of ads. It offers the option to save material to read later, and you can send things to your Kindle, too. This one also comes as a mobile app.

Google Dictionary

One of the perks of having your students read “real life” content is that they’re exposed to different language use than they may otherwise be; the downside is that may force them to spend more time looking up words they aren’t familiar with. The Google Dictionary chrome extension makes a handy little dictionary icon next to the browser’s URL field. When you come across a word you’re unfamiliar with, simply highlight the word and click the dictionary icon. Easy peasy!


Sidenotes is a note-taking extension that opens up a basic notebook in the sidebar of a webpage, allowing you to jot down notes on the side (as the name so aptly implies). All of your data can be backed up to Dropbox for you to access anywhere

Stay Focusd

Stay Focusd aims to well, help you stay focused by limiting the amount of time you spend on certain websites. If you know that you’re prone to going down a black hole of Reddit postings and emerge an hour later, you can set up a filter to block you out of that site after a certain amount of time, for a certain amount of time. You can block certain sites, all sites except those you whitelist, or certain content. Think of it as a helper for your time management problem.

Note Anywhere

Note Anywhere is a simple sticky note extension that allows you to leave a note on any webpage. When you return to that page, you’ll see the note. This is great for lesson planning ideas, or for anyone doing research.


Whatever word processing software you use likely has a spell checker, and likely your email. But you aren’t always writing using those tools, and spell check leaves it at just that. Enter: Grammarly. Wherever you’re writing online, it follows you around, ensuring your grammar is up to snuff and not making you look bad.

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The periodic table of education technology

We had a crazy idea over the weekend here at Daily Genius. What if we organized all the top education technology tools into a simple graphic? Then we took it a step further by identifying some of the best ways to organize data into a single visual. What better way to do that than by taking a page from the Periodic Table of the Elements? So we set out to identify the top edtech tools and conferences and then figured out which categories they all fit into.

What you see below is the result of quite a bit of effort from the editors of Daily Genius as well as the community. We cover edtech on a daily basis (hence the name of the site 🙂 but wanted to do something special for the end of the year. Hope you enjoy and explore it on an ongoing basis. Just do a web search for any of the names in the table and you’ll discover that tool. There’s a decent chance you will find a new tool, conference, app, or web tool that you might want to use in the coming year.

Want to get weekly edtech tips and deals? Check this out.

We worked hard to make sure these are all our favorite conferences and products. None of them are sponsored. This is the most genuine list we could ever make. It’s featuring the products and events that are widely accepted across the education industry and is by no means exhaustive. We know there are hundreds of options but endeavored to make the most useful visual possible.

We’ll be updating this a couple times a year to ensure it’s as relevant as possible. Be sure to check back to see what’s new!

Download The Periodic Table Of Education Technology

Click here to download the PDF version of the periodic table of education technology.

The amazing Kathy Schrock made a clickable PDF version of the graphic! Check that out here.

Want to enlarge the image below? Simply click on it!

NOTE: Updated December 30, 2015 as edX was featured twice. Replaced with a fan-favorite, Udemy!

periodic table of edtech daily genius

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Online professional development takes big leap forward with edX and Microsoft partnership

Do you relish the idea of sitting in a cold room on a folding chair for 8 hours straight? What if you were being lectured by a consultant the entire time? Now how about we throw in very little food or breaks.
Got your interest yet? That’s basically the opposite of what the future of professional development will be.

TL;DR: Microsoft + edX = Your online professional development

dog using computer

Yes, you could be getting top-notch PD from the comfort of your couch. Dog not included!

That is, of course, if today’s news of an enhanced partnership bears the kind of fruit I hope will come. As of this morning (California time), Microsoft and edX are building out their existing partnership to develop online courses for teachers, school leaders, principals, superintendents, and others who are working to enhance school learning.
In other words, online professional development is coming soon to a comfy chair near you. You’ll be able to leverage the technology and expertise of Microsoft on the powerful edX platform. Right from the comfort of your own home. Heck, you could probably take some high-quality online professional development while grading papers. Multitasking ahoy!

Ok, give me the skinny on this. Why should I care?

Want to get the skinny on this news and why it matters to you? Read on for the official statement and a couple helpful links:
edxlogoToday, edX is proud to announce a new collaboration with Microsoft to develop online courses for K-12 school leaders to drive systemic change and improve education.
Courses, which will be created by edX university partners – leading universities and colleges from around the world – will guide principals, superintendents and school leaders in improving their schools and enhancing classroom learning.
Together, recognizing a need and an opportunity to make an impact, edX and Microsoft will work closely alongside universities to craft courses to fill knowledge gaps that exist within schools. From teaching with technology, to achieving better student outcomes, to school staffing, to technology and expertise needs, these courses will prepare schools, teachers and leaders to develop the best schools for tomorrow and harness the power of technology in the classroom.
[easy-tweet tweet=”TL;DR: Microsoft + edX = Your online professional development” user=”dailygenius” hashtags=”#edchat”]
“Technology and educational expertise can unlock the potential of students, educators and schools, and we are honored to collaborate with Microsoft to bring together the best in technology with edX’s premier learning platform and edX university partners – the best institutions in the world,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “This partnership will empower school leaders to create educational environments that result in student achievement and success, and it builds upon our collaboration with Microsoft that offers free courses to millions of learners around the world.”
Informed by Microsoft’s work with Showcase Schools, these courses will address the unique needs of principals and school administrators as they solve for the changing educational and technology landscape. The courses will be available globally to impact learning throughout the world.
Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Vice President of Education, added “we’re excited about the potential this collaboration with edX represents. Microsoft has been working with schools for a long time and we recognize the great work and passion teachers and school leaders bring to their work. Collaborating with edX and its university partners to create courses that build leadership capacity – driving change at a system level – raises the bar to drive impactful and purpose-driven transformation, ultimately helping students achieve more.”
This partnership expands upon the collaboration between edX and Microsoft in online learning. Microsoft offers more than 35 online courses, both MOOCs and professional education courses, on edX.org.
Cute couch-surfing dog photo via Flickr cc

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How To Use Technology To Transform Your Workflow

The new school year is underway and it is time to ask ourselves a couple of questions. What can I do to be more efficient and effective in my daily workflow? What tools can I use to target instruction? How can I connect with other educators?

The first step is learning more about available resources. As you read this post, think about your current workflow. Which of these tools would be most beneficial to your workflow?

The second step is taking action. Start with the tool that will be the biggest difference maker. Set aside a plan period each week initially to learn the tool and then use the tool regularly.

Finally, keep a journal and reflect on the impact the tool has made on your workflow. How did students respond? What were the benefits? What are your future plans to continue using the tool?

Here are six tools to tech up your classroom.


Text students reminders with ease using Remind. This is the perfect way to send information to students for both academics or athletics. This is a free site that creates a simple, yet powerful way to connect your students to the classroom and opens a new channel of communication.


Want a quick way to connect and collaborate with colleagues? Voxer is a walkie talkie type app for iPhones and Androids that streamlines communication and is quick and easy to use. In addition, you can send text, images, and videos too! The group feature allows for multiple people to be on one Voxer message which makes it a fantastic app for teachers. Imagine having your PLC in a Voxer group. When you have a great idea, just hold down the middle button and send an audio message. If another teacher is in the app, they will hear you in real-time, just like a walkie talkie. If not, your message is stored as an audio file that can be played at a later time. This is a great app to use with family and friends too. For more information, check out this post on Voxer: A Vehicle for Collaboration and Communication

Google Forms

Tap into the power of Google Apps for Ed (#gafe) and Google Forms. Google forms are a quick and easy way to collect data to provide targeted instruction for students. Google Forms are quick and easy to create and even easier to share with students. Feedback is immediate and can be used to impact instruction as the lesson evolves.

Another way to use Google Forms is to get a feel for the classroom vibe. For example, you can create a reusable Google Form and ask students a few simple questions.

Check out this blogpost from Garrett Sims (@gtwitsims) who uses Google forms every day to see how his students are feeling. Create a QR code for even faster student access to the form. The results may surprise you and give you great insight to your students.

Google Hangouts and Skype

Tired of driving across town to collaboration meetings? Want to share an idea with a colleague? Connecting with other teachers in your building or educators from around the world with either of these free video conferencing tools can become part of the daily workflow. Both are easy to setup and use.

Why not connect with other classrooms or bring in a guest speaker. To start connecting your classroom, go to Google Plus and join the Connected Classrooms Community and/or get involved with Skype for Education.


A visually pleasing way to brainstorm, share photos, files, and videos is using Padlet . This tool is free, simple to set up, and can be shared in a variety of ways. One simple way to share a Padlet is embedding it on a website. Students can access it quickly on any device. Not only is it free, but Padlet is accessible on any device: computers, tablets, and phones.

Here are some ideas for using Padlet in the classroom: journal prompts, book discussion, brainstorming, curating students artwork, collaborate and share with other classrooms, and more.


Target Instruction with YouTube Playlists

Have a concept your students struggle with? Use your data to target instruction by creating educational screencasts to support student learning or find existing videos at YouTube. Students can listen to these in whole groups, small groups, or individually. Find and/or create videos that target instruction and personalize the learning for your unique students needs. Here are the steps to using the YouTube workflow.

  1. In order to tap the power of YouTube for organizing and sharing videos with a playlist, you must first have a channel. Click here for a tutorial video on setting up a channel.
  2. Adding videos to a playlist is just a click or two away. Click here for a tutorial video on creating and adding videos to playlists.
  3. Search for videos on youtube. Here is a list of 100 Incredibly Useful YouTube Channels for educators you may want to explore.
  4. Share your playlists via a link or embed them on a blog or website. Click here for a tutorial video on setting up and managing playlists.

Give some of these tools a try this school year and tech up your classroom workflow. Keep your journal of the growth you experience this year. When you take a look in the spring, it will be amazing to see how your daily workflow transformed over the course of just one school year by integrating these tools into your routine.

Want to learn more helpful tools from experts and practicing teachers? Join us November 16-18, 2015 in Boston for the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit.




Featured image via Flickr

Sponsored By: thelazyplumber.com.

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20 popular apps and web tools made by students

We talk about the importance of bringing technology into education on a regular basis. But why? What’s the end goal here? Is it to improve learning outcomes, unlock new learning opportunities, or to perhaps equip students with the ability to change the future?
I think education technology can actually do all those things and more. That is, of course, if properly used and handled by a tech-savvy teacher who is willing to help nurture and guide students along the way.
One of the ways education technology integration has changed the future is through teaching students how to code. There are countless online schools and web-based platforms that can help students (and you!) learn how to code. But what happens when students and teenagers around the world take this newfound knowledge and start building apps and web tools?
They create something special. As you can see below, this list of popular apps and web tools comes from the always fun Product Hunt which details a little bit about each app as well as a link to learn more.
I hope you use this list as a jumping off point for trying your hand at coding and learning how to build something that might become incredibly useful and popular. All I ask is that, when you make it, you let Daily Genius know about it so we can check it out!

Flickr image via hackNY.org cc

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