Monday, August 27, 2012

How to get the URL of a Discovery Education resource

A valuable resource we provide to the teachers and students in our district is access to the Discovery Education website.  It contains thousands of digital files of varying media types including full videos, video segments, images, clip art, audio tracks, songs, articles, interactive activities, complete lesson plans, presentations, handouts, assessment tools, and much more.  Many people associate Discovery Education with science and history, but their offerings now span dozens of subject areas including mathematics, English/language arts, health, world languages, visual/performing arts, research/study skills, teaching practices, career/work place skills, and more.  All of our teachers have the opportunity to create a Discovery Education account (Leyden teachers can click here to learn how) and, new for this school year, all of our students have been uploaded into the system and have accounts created for them (Leyden teachers can click here to learn how students log in).  In previous years, the only option for our teachers to use a Discovery Education resource was to project it in their classrooms.  Now that all of our students have their own Chromebooks, have their own Discovery Education accounts, and our teachers are publishing course content in a learning management system (we use OpenClass) or on websites, teachers can now share links to DE resources for students to access both in and out of the classroom.  The following video tutorial demonstrates how teachers can get the URL of a specific DE resource to share with their students.  Be sure to change the video resolution to 720 HD for best quality.  I plan on producing additional tutorials that show how teachers can create classes in their Discovery Education accounts, add their students, and share resources within the system.  So check back later.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Listen to iTunes Audio Podcasts on Your Chromebook

If you'd like to start having your students listen to iTunes audio podcasts on their Chromebooks, there is a solution.  Just have your students install the iTunes Audio Preview/Podcast Downloader extension from the Chrome web store and then direct them to the appropriate podcast page.  The extension will add a Preview link next to each audio file that the students can click on and listen to.  This will also work for teachers on their laptops.  If you've never visited the iTunes podcast listing page, you should check it out.  There are thousands of free podcasts organized into dozens of categories that you can search through.  Once you find a podcast you'd like your students to listen to, you can share the URL with them by posting it on your website, in your learning management course (we use OpenClass in our district), or even emailing it to them. I'd imagine this could be a very popular tool in language classes.  Please note that this extension only works for audio podcasts and not video podcasts.  Enjoy!

Here's a screenshot of how the Preview link appears once you have the extension installed.  The URL for this particular podcast page is:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Flashcards Anywhere and Anytime with StudyBlue

During the first week of school in our new 1:1 environment, I had a few teachers inquire about different options for getting their students to use flashcards on their Chromebooks. I'm excited to share what I think could be a helpful and standard way of using online flashcards in our district.  Allow me to introduce you to StudyBlue. Here are some of the things I love about StudyBlue:

  • It works on any device: Chromebook, PC, MAC, Android device, and iPhone/iPad.  This allows teachers and students to create and study flashcards anywhere and anytime.
  • There is a Chrome web app that allows our teachers and students to log in with their Google Apps accounts.  By the way, this app has already been pushed out to all Leyden students, so they already have it.  Gotta' love the app management of the Chromebooks!
  • It's easy for teachers to create flashcard sets and share them with their students.
  • It's easy for students to create their own flashcard sets and they can share them with their friends.
  • Flashcards can contain images and audio clips.
  • Students can choose how many and in what order the flashcards appear.
  • Students identify which flashcards they have learned and can re-study only those they need to continue working with.
  • Students can monitor their progress after each review of a flashcard set.
  • Students can set alerts to notify them when it's time to study the flashcards again.
  • Teachers and students can search for thousands of public flashcard sets that have already been created.
  • Teachers and students can import material from Excel files or csv files.
  • Flashcard sets can be edited after they've been created.
  • Flashcard sets can be made public, public but anonymous, private, and even password protected.
  • It's FREE!
The following video shows how a teacher can create a flashcard set and share it with his/her students.  The video has been optimized for 720 HD resolution, so be sure to change your playback settings.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Replacing Printed Planers/Calendars with Google Calendars and Tasks

One of the side effects of going 1:1 in our district this coming year is that we are no longer providing our students with printed planners/calendars.  The function of that tool, however, does not need to be lost.  In fact, my opinion is that it can be easily improved by teachers maintaining course calendars and teaching the students how to effectively use Google Tasks.  The following video provides more information and a tutorial.

1:1 with Chromebooks Becomes a Reality at Leyden

In a little more than 24 hours (from the writing of this post), the next step in the digital evolution of Leyden Community High School District 212 will be achieved.  On August 14, Leyden officially becomes a 1:1 district when students report for the first day of classes... with their Google Chromebooks.  It has certainly been a long journey to get here, but that light at the end of the tunnel is now a blinding supernova.  For the past two years, we have been researching and planning for this day.  We're ready!  At least, I really think/hope we are.  Here are some of the key highlights to how we got here:

  • A dedication from our Board of Education, administration, teachers, and everyone to providing our students with the tools and environment that will allow them to be creative, collaborative, better critical thinkers, improve communication, foster the 21st century fluencies, and become better digital citizens.
  • Research, research, and more research!
  • Committees used for planning.
  • The addition of one hour to the weekly administrative council meetings to talk about going 1:1.
  • Coming up with a new plan for measuring student success.
  • A two year pilot program.
  • Upgrading the district's wireless infrastructure and bandwidth.
  • The implementation of Google Apps for Education for faculty, staff, and students.
  • Deciding to move teaching and learning to the web and that the Chromebook was the right tool to accomplish this goal.
  • Ongoing support from Google and the Chromebook team, which started with a site visit from a couple Googlers and a trip out to the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.
  • Adopting OpenClass as our learning management system.
  • Professional development opportunities, including our 2-day digital evolution summit which offered dozens of sessions taught by leading educational technology enthusiasts from across the country.
  • The hiring of two full-time instructional technology coaches.
  • The creation of our Tech Support Internship (TSI) elective class.
  • Publishing an informational website for parents/guardians and students.
  • Hosting an internal planning website for faculty and staff.
  • Working with a vendor on a solution that would allow students to access websites that do not work on the Chromebook but that would still remain behind our firewall and content filter.
  • Working with a vendor on a solution that would allow faculty and staff to monitor the screens of their students and even restrict their Internet access (still a work in progress).
  • Working with vendors to create and improve available Chrome web apps.
  • Working with some vendors on optional third party insurance plans.
  • Deciding to get our Chromebooks laser engraved and asset tagged.
It reads...
Property of Leyden High School District 212
If found or presented for sale,
please call 847-451-3017.
The ID# matches the barcoded asset tag.

  • Creating a Chromebook Intro website that loads every time the students log onto their device.
  • Deciding on which Chrome web apps and extensions to push out to every student's account (ongoing work in progress).
  • Developing a web-based Chromebook checkout system.
  • Handing out the Chromebooks the week before school during registration and book pick-up.

  • Having a tremendously talented and dedicated technology staff.
  • Having lots and lots of patience.
  • Knowing that what we are doing will make a difference.

I'm sure that I've forgotten at least a few things in my list, but I think you get the idea (if you've read this far). We are very excited about the upcoming historic year!  I suppose I should probably go to bed now to rest up for all the fun.

One last note, we are planning a few days during our first semester for anyone that might like to stop by and see and learn more about what we're doing.  Let me know if you're interested.  I can be reached at

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Create a Digital Assigment Dropbox with Google Forms UPDATED

Back in February I put together a post regarding using Google Forms to create a digital assignment dropbox for collecting student work (original post here).  The basic idea is to use a single Google Form throughout an entire course to collect the web addresses of students' digital work.  Creating the form will automatically create the spreadsheet for the teachers that they can use to see all of their students' assignments on one screen instead of needing to open dozens of individual emails or folders/collections in Google Drive.

Since my original post, it was decided that our district would issue a second Google Apps for Education account to all of our teachers in our student domain (we have one domain exclusively for faculty/staff and one for students).  Therefore, it is my recommendation that our teachers create their digital assignment dropboxes in the student domain.  There are two main advantages of doing this.  First is that the teachers can now require their students to be signed into their Google Apps accounts in order to submit their work instead of leaving the form open to the public.  Second, the teachers can automatically collect the usernames of the students filling out the form as an additional validation check.  To accomplish these goals, the teachers should create their forms in the student domain and check the appropriate boxes in the upper left corner of the form editing window:

Here is my original screencast with more information and the instructions for how to create the form.  Be sure to change the playback quality to 720p HD for the best clarity.