Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Translate in Gmail

First off, the good news! I'm officially a Certified Google Educator! I could not be more excited. I thought I knew Google Apps for Education (GAFE) inside out, but I still learned so much in the process of studying for and taking the exams for certification. I sure haven't been using it to its fullest!

If you work with ELLs and have difficulty communicating with parents, you're going to LOVE today's tech tip! Today's tip is not only super easy, but super effective. As you probably guessed....it's a Google trick! If your school email is through GAFE then you're ready to go, but it's worth adding that this little trick also works in a regular Gmail address.

If you receive an email in a language you don't speak, you can easily and quickly translate that email without ever leaving your Gmail window. Just click the arrow in the upper right of the email, next to the reply window and select "translate message" (shown in image below).

For convenience, you can even set it to always translate messages that come to your email inbox in a particular language, as shown in the image below.

Why this is great for ELLs:
This is a perfect tool for making your communication with parents who may not speak English even easier! If they also have an Gmail account, you can teach them how to do this as well! That way, you can communicate easily and quickly with parents without the need for an interpreter! Parents can feel more connected to what's happening in the classroom on a daily basis and more involved in their child's education.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tech Tips for Teachers 2015 Ebook

I'm so pleased to announce that our *free* 2015 Tech Tips for Teachers Ebook is now available! Filled with some amazing tech tips and and freebies, this ebook will help you build and manage your 21st century classroom!

Much thanks to the other editors, Andrea Crawford and Utah Roots, as well as our amazing and talented cover artist, Stacey Lloyd!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Symbaloo

Welcome back for another Tech Tip Tuesday. This is one that will make your computer lab or computer station time run much more smoothly! No more long lists of URLs that students need to type into the browser, or having to create a brand-new webpage to collect links for each computer project.

Symbaloo allows you to keep all your links handy and available, and makes it easy for students to visit approved webpages without having to type in URLS. You can create new tabs for different "mixes" to help you stay organized. For example, if you're doing a project on Owls, you might create a mix with all your owl links in one place. You can also easily create a new mix for next week's topic! See this sample webmix all about Owls.

A webmix I recently created for participants in a workshop I was leading

Even better, as you find new links that fit your mix, you can continue adding to the mix to build a library of links that are relevant to the topic of your mix. The webmixes are available to you (and students) until you decide to delete them. When a link is no longer good, it's super easy to remove!

Can be used for:

  • Research 
  • Managing Computer Station Time
  • Creating a classroom desktop
  • Cataloging links for units of study

Why this is great for ELLs:
ELLs, especially newcomers and those less familiar with computers often find it difficult, time-consuming and frustrating to type in URLs (and often have trouble recognizing a mistake in a URL they've typed in). Using Symbaloo allows students to spend more time on the web learning and less time typing in URLs. It also helps ensure that students are staying on task and using teacher-approved websites.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

American Civil War: 154 Years

Given that 154 years ago today, the first shots of the Civil War were fired in Ft. Sumter, South Carolina, I thought it would be fitting to continue with more about my visit to Manassas Battlefield Park Yesterday.

Though the battle of Ft. Sumter officially marks the beginning of the Civil War, historians widely consider the First Battle of Bull Run to be the battle that really marked the beginning of the war in earnest. Lincoln thought that Bull Run would be a small skirmish in which the Union troops quickly won, putting an end to the war before it really began. Local people even showed up with picnic lunches to socialize and watch the battle!

Lincoln's hopes were not to come to fruition. The Confederate troops routed the Union forces, sending them running back to Centerville, VA in a disorganized retreat. Their retreat was hampered by the socialites fleeing the scene. Union casualties were: 460 killed, 1,124 wounded, and 1,312 missing or captured; Confederate casualties were: 387 killed, 1,582 wounded, and 13 missing. Because the Confederate troops were highly disorganized, they did not give chase when the Union forces retreated.

If you haven't already, watch this quick video about the battle, then, check out the interactive map for some historical pictures & points of interest.

Bull Run Animated Map from Civil War Trust on Vimeo.

Check out the interactive map below to learn more about some of the interesting points and places of the First Battle of Bull Run!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Skydiving fail and a suprise adventure

Skydiving Fail

So, many moons ago, my Dad promised to take me skydiving when I turned 18. 12 years later, he finally made the reservation. We were first set to go the first weekend in November. That was canceled due to rain, and rescheduled for today.

So, I got up this morning, feeling a little queasy, and had a sensible breakfast made entirely of a giant latte. I got dressed and headed out toward Warrenton, VA and the DC Skydive Center. About 30 minutes away, we got a call that they had canceled due to high winds. Fail #2. I can't say my stomach didn't stop swirling. Will we reschedule...?

Surprise Adventure

Since we were already awake and in NOVA by 10:30 on a Saturday, we decided to head to Manassas Battlefield Park, which was about 10 minutes away from where we were. Despite being breezy, the weather was beautiful and the sun was shining. We set out to walk the Stone Bridge Loop Trail. Here are some pictures from the day:
Warrenton Turnpike at the Stone Bridge where the
First Battle of Manassas began on 21 July 1861.
The first line of defense was set at the Stone Bridge on 21 July 1861 when the First Battle of Manassas (also called Bull Run) began. The first shot rang out across the quiet countryside at 5:30 that morning.

The site of the Van Pelt Farm which housed a hospital
by Union Troops during the Second battle of Manassas,
View from the Van Pelt site toward the Stone Bridge
View from the Stone Bridge Up to the Van Pelt Farm
(seen high on the hill in the center) in March 1862.
The history of the Van Pelt Family and their farm- called Avon by the Van Pelt family- is quite interesting. You can learn more here. The home was commandeered by Union Troops during the Second Battle of Manassas. Van Pelt's daughter attempted to collect damages from the Union Army, but much of her claim was denied. The house no longer stands, but the site's proximity to the creek and the Stone Bridge on Warrenton Pike make it obvious why the Union set up quarters here. 

Here's a great video form the Civil War Trust about the Battle of Bull Run:

Spring is here!
While learning about history, we also had the opportunity to see some beautiful nature!

I can't wait to go back and explore the site of the Second Battle of Manassas!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Forms

One of the reasons that I've been a little flaky on Tech Tip Tuesday lately (I just realized I missed last Tuesday- Sorry!) is because I've been studying for and taking the exams to become a Google Certified Educator. I'm so excited about this process!

So, based on what I've learned in that process, I wanted to share with you about Google Forms. Google forms has SO MANY awesome applications, and I think this tool is highly underused. This is a tool that you can use to not only enhance instruction, but make personal record-keeping easier, as well as facilitate meetings and communication with parents.

First off, if your school has GAFE (Google Apps for Education), then you're already ahead of the game. If not, you'll need a Google Account to get started. Once you've signed up, the easiest way to access your Google Drive and begin creating a form is through your Gmail. View the quick video below to see how to get started!

All responses to your form are collected into a spreadsheet that can easily be shared with admin/colleagues. I can think of several possible uses for Google forms. Below are several ideas, some linked to sample forms I've created. Feel free to peruse and use these as models to create your own forms.

Teacher Record Keeping:
Classroom Uses:
Admin Uses:
  • Classroom Walkthrough
  • Observation Notes
  • Professional Development Evaluation
  • Staff Surveys
  • Sign-ups (committees, potluck, etc)
Why this is great for ELLs:
Allowing ELLs to do things like track their own grades or progress gives them some feeling of control over their educational journey. Likewise, as a teacher, the more quickly you can get data about what students know or don't know, the more quickly you can provide valuable feedback and activities to students that can help bolster their abilities in areas where they're struggling. Additionally, it is important to remember that our students of today are going to live in a world even more imbued with technology in the future. Since many of our ESOL students don't always have access to internet or computers at home, it is up to their teachers to help them develop their technology skills so that they can not only survive, but thrive, in the 21st century.

There are a ton of possible uses and the ideas above are just a starting point. Are you already using Google forms in your classroom? If so, how? Has this given you an idea for using Google Forms in your classroom? I'd love to hear your comments!