It's October and that means Connected Educator Month. Check out the official website here. A lot has been written about being a connected educator, but what exactly does that mean? That seems to depend on who you talk to, but some consistent similarities point to individualization in:
  • Who you connect with
  • How you connect
  • Those conversations you have
  • The growth you experience
  • The opportunities you seize
When you become a connected educator, not only do you experience growth in your practice as an educator, but you expand your perception of possibilities. You begin to view learning through different lenses, and leverage ideas, concepts, and opportunities to connect your learning with that of your students. The benefits are pretty transparent, but it's hard to ignore the greatest benefit of all...the impact on your students and the learning environment in your classroom.

This week's resources flyer asks you to ponder this...How are you using technology to connect learning in your classroom? As you begin to expand your understanding of what it means to be a connected educator, you will begin to explore ways to make learning meaningful and experiential. Our world has gone digital and it is our job to prepare our students to function within the demands of that digital world. I've included 3 cool tools to help with connecting learning in the classroom:

Celly is a great app that allows you to take discussions online. It's a great way to extend learning beyond the classroom and to get students talking about and reflecting on the content. These are skills that need to be developed and Celly offers the perfect environment for this!

Tozzl is another option for online collaboration and discussions.
It's referred to as a "pinboard", but features the ability to keep it private. I love how this site requires no registration-ideal for a classroom setting! You simply create a new pinboard and a password that allows others to edit. You also create a password to delete it once you are done. It can also be used as a backchannel, allowing those quiet students to gain a voice within the learning environment.

The last resource shared this week is one I've shared before. Edpuzzle allows you to connect learning to a video by customizing a video with additional audio, inserting questions or other interactive options to allow for a more student-centered learning experience. Edpuzzle's tagline is "Make any video your lesson." And that, you can totally do! Teachers love Edpuzzle for its ease of use and students love it for its ability to keep them engaged in the video viewing process. Edpuzzle recently added some updates that are detailed here. now integrates with Google Classroom!

So check out these resources and get connected!

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This summer most of our district read Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. We were fortunate to have him speak at convocation as well. He was very inspirational in getting teachers to think differently about ways to make learning an experience. He challenged us to transform our classrooms into places students would pay for. It has been fun seeing this approach to learning unfold this school year. I began thinking about ways to use social media to engage students and connect content to their take those key concepts to make the learning experiential and memorable. Below are six crazy ways to use social media to fire up the classroom.

1. Create a social media campaign to get high profile Google Hangout partners such as authors, experts in their field, world leaders, superstars...think BIG! Create YouTube videos to formally invite the target guests. Be wildly creative and include your students! Who can say no to them! Then blast the Internet with your social media campaign.

2. Create parody or special interest Twitter accounts and manage and post daily to engage your students in active dialogue connecting your content to the real world.

3. Host Twitter or Instagram scavenger hunts or mystery hunts connecting your content to current events. I loved Catlin Tucker's use of an Instagram Scavenger Hunt while on a field trip.

4. Have students guest post on a class blog. This is a great way to share the learning with parents and the community and to give students a voice.

5. Get students to create and post content-related memes to the class Twitter or Instagram accounts.

6. Spark a revolution for your students to participate in...find a need in the community and set out to solve it. Build real-world skills in your students while integrating or connecting your content to the movement at hand.

I'd love to hear some other, nontraditional ways teachers are using social media in their classrooms. Feel free to post something that has been wildly successful for you and your students.
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I am so excited about the recent announcement that Google school domains FINALLY have the ability to filter video content in YouTube. Anyone who knows me, knows this has long been a thorn in my side. We have moved into an age where YouTube is synonymous with learning and to block such a huge resource for teachers and for students seemed ludicrous although given some of the questionable content on YouTube, I totally understood the reasoning!

So this is how it works...once the GAFE domain admin turns this on, it gives teachers the ability to approve or whitelist videos for the entire domain. Many videos are already approved by Google, but the tools include designating approvers within the domain...typically the classroom teachers! This is such a great update for education today; YouTube can serve as a great repository for teacher and student-created media! Plus, I love the YouTube Video Editor Tools and they are one more tool that can be used in helping students understand the need for using copyright-friendly resources!

So how does this work for the teachers and students? Students will gain access to YouTube if they are signed into their Google account. Verified domain teachers, when logged into their school domain, will see a blue bar below each video identifying whether it is approved or not. They will then have the ability to approve videos by checking the APPROVE button. If they inadvertently approve a video, the teacher can simply click the REMOVE button to block the video once again. (See the graphic below).

Implications For Education

PLAYLISTS: I love YouTube playlists which are simply the curation of videos with a certain theme or topic. When you see a video you want to have the ability to quickly refer back to, simply click the "+ Add To" below each video.

YOUTUBE CHANNEL CREATION: Teachers and students both have the ability to create their own YouTube channels and be able to showcase their own media creations! What a great repository of work! To make your YouTube channel look professional, create your own channel header! I love to use Canva and they have a YouTube channel header template! (The recommended header size is 2560 x 1440 pixels.) See the slide deck below for a link to channel creation help.

YOUTUBE VIDEO EDITOR: Most people don't even know YouTube has a video editor within this app and it's actually pretty cool! There are copyright-friendly music and video clips that can be used in the editing process. You can also annotate on top of videos and add links to other videos. This is a great tool for creating Choose Your Own Adventure videos! One additional benefit...students can download the YouTube CAPTURE app for iOS or the YouTube Creator Studio for Android phones and they can upload their clips directly to their YouTube account for editing purposes...hello Chromebooks, there's a good little video editor in town!

Just click on the slides for links to these channels. Have a favorite I've missed? Feel free to share your favorites!
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Last year at this time we launched over 2500 iPads across our district to math and science classrooms...this year, it's Chromebooks. While I love our iPads and the learning they inspire in our students, using them in a shared environment has been challenging to say the least. A shared environment is where Chromebooks shine! Students are able to customize their Chrome browser with extensions and apps that can enhance the learning process. They can also customize their Chromebooks with adjustments to the trackpad and keyboard to suit their computing needs...and when they log out, those customizations go with them! 

So how do we get the Chromebooks school ready? 

By adding Chrome extensions to add functionality to its performance, Chromebooks can help make the learning more efficient and engaging. I could write a whole blog post on my personal favorite extensions, but this post is about extensions that STUDENTS need to maximize their learning potential, so I've put together my SHORTLIST of must-haves in order of awesomeness:
#1: Web of Trust-EVERY student needs this extension added to their Chrome browser. It crowdsources website reliability and vets web search results with Green, Yellow, and Red dots to indicate a website's trustworthiness. No longer can students rely on all .org sites to be dependable. For instance, is a site run by white supremacists!
#2: AdBlock-Another Chrome extension students should not go without! It blocks ads on web pages as well as YouTube and Facebook. I love to surf the web and look up at the extension and see high numbers in the lower right-hand corner of the extension's doing its job! When you install this extension, it asks for a donation. While this extension is free, you will be more than happy to send the creator and his wife a few bucks their way!
#3: read&write-This app is fabulous for offering reading and writing support in Google Docs and on the web. Students can have the text read, they can highlight, have a web page simplified. There is a free version with fewer options than the paid version. I know many schools pay for their students to have access to the full version of this extension. It is truly learning made easy!
#4: Cite This For Me: Web Citer- Can I have an OMG! I love this extension. I've always struggled with getting a website cited correctly! Just click a button and let it do its magic...then copy and paste! It works for APA, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA formats.
#5: Save To Google Drive-This extension allows you to save web content, screenshots, media, and web links directly in Google Drive...very handy on a Chromebook! 
#6: Grammarly- I love this extension; I use it all the time. As you type online, it is constantly monitoring for spelling and grammar errors. I mean...who doesn't need this extension?
#7: Classroom Split- This is an extension commissioned by Alice Keeler for students to be able to split their screens between their project instructions and their working Google document inside Google Classroom. This extension is sure to make task management much easier.
#8: Screencastify Extension-To be able to screencast on a Chromebook, this extension seems to be the best. But note that it may not work on older Chromebooks. One thing I love about this extension is the annotation toolkit that is available during the screencasting process.

Adding a few Chrome apps will also help students be more productive and allow them to maximize these tools for learning. Now my shortlist for Chrome apps doesn't include all of the cool, really great apps that can engage the learner in creating some awesome projects such as those mentioned in the graphic to the right. However, there are some really great apps that will aid students in being more efficient in their learning. Those are the apps I want to feature as those needed to get our Chromebooks school ready.
#1: Sketchpad 3.5- We have recently deployed touchscreen Chromebooks and this app is awesome for those. If your Chromebooks aren't touchscreen, this app can be skipped. It's basically an artboard that allows you to load in graphics to annotate, to free draw. There are multiple backgrounds such as graph paper, blueprint, and others that can be loaded. You can add text; it's just a very versatile app, one that helps the Chromebook bridge the gap between a laptop and an iPad.
#2: Google Drive- This suite of apps goes without's the classroom workhorse of today. This app should be loaded on all devices so that students have access to their files at any time, anywhere.
#3: DocHub- This is another staple app that can serve students in being able to edit, annotate, and merge/reorder PDFs. 
#4: Evernote- Need to take notes, compile research information, curate content, you name it, Evernote can probably do it. I used it a couple of years ago as an Interactive Notebook for my social studies class. Students have the ability to share notebooks with peers/teachers and there are several great apps such as Skitch that can be integrated with Evernote.
#5: Clipchamp- One of the major missing pieces on the Chromebook is a camera that takes video, but alas, Clipchamp has recently been updated and now "Houston, we have video!" 
#6: Voice Recorder- This is a great, easy-to-use audio recording tool that allows the students to quickly record and save to Google Drive. This app and Clipchamp are both great, easy apps that will allow students to quickly create media.
#7: Quizlet- This is just a perennial favorite app to create/search flashcards to be able to take your learning with you.
#8: Notebook for Class- Want to do a digital notebook? Give this one a try. It's pretty slick looking and is very easy to use. There are several themes you can select to customize your notebook. The free version has some limitations but seems to be adequate.

I'd love to hear what others have found to be critical keys to maximizing Chromebooks in the classroom. Please share!

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