Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's Not the Tech, it's the Teacher

I'm writing this today from the CUE Rock Star conference in La Jolla, CA.  If you have the chance to attend a CUE Rock Star event, I'd highly recommend it.  Limited attendance allows for great ratio between speaker and attendees.  This provides an amazing opportunity for learning and networking.  You can check the website here to see if there are any events coming up in your area.

My biggest thought today is a thought I've had during all the ed tech conferences I've attended lately.

It's not the tech you use, it's how you use it.

So if you feel like you can't possibly keep up with all the new apps and tools out there - that's ok.  You won't be a terrible teacher because you don't know all the cool new tricks.  Should you have a good foundation with the basics of what is out there?  Absolutely.  If your students have Google Apps, commit to learn all about Google Apps.  You can do amazing things just by utilizing the basics in meaningful ways.  Then you can work on learning more a little at a time.  Technology won't automatically make you a good teacher.  Don't lose sight of the instincts that make you good at what you do.  Just because we have all this amazing technology at our fingertips, it doesn't mean that we give up everything we know about good teaching, throw out all the textbooks, hand each kid a device, and sit back to watch the test scores rise.

It's true that there are many new devices, websites, and apps out there that allow teachers and students to do incredibly creative things.  How we structure our lessons and assignments should be changing in dramatic ways because of it.  If we allow the available technology to transform the way we think about what students can and should be doing for their assignments, learning can be impacted in amazing ways.  The hard thing is, this can easily lead to you feeling overwhelmed by all that is out there.  It can make you feel like you are doing everything all wrong when you see some of the advanced things others are doing.  Should some of those things be goals for you?  Yes.  Should you expect to do them tomorrow with confidence and ease?  Not necessarily.

I say start with the basics.  Whatever platform your students are using - Google, Microsoft, etc. - learn it, and learn it well.  Unless you have a good feel for what you can do with it, it won't begin to change the design of your lessons and assignments in truly meaningful ways.  Start with the basics, use those great teacher instincts about what will help your students connect with the content, and never be afraid to ask for help.

Technology alone is fun and interesting.  Technology in the hands of a great teacher becomes incredibly powerful.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Google Classroom

A few of my colleagues have asked me to do a post about Google Classroom.  I've played with it a little bit, but I do have to admit I haven't really used it yet.  We use Hapara Teacher Dashboard at our school and I thought I didn't need Google Classroom because of that.  I'm finding now that while I don't NEED it, they can be very powerful when used together and I'll be exploring that next year.  Regardless of whether or not you use Hapara...cough cough...if you have Google Apps you really should...cough cough...Google Classroom can be a really effective tool.

Instead of making a post about Google Classroom, I'm going to send you directly to the master.  Alice Keeler is one of my Ed Tech Heroes.  She is a Google Certified Teacher and a Google Classroom rockstar.  If Google Classroom can do it, she knows how.  If you are on Twitter, follow her - @AliceKeeler.  Even if you aren't on Twitter, you can check out her blog, Teacher Tech.  She even has a book that she co-authored, 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom.

She has an entire section of her blog focused just on Google Classroom, which you can access by clicking here.  Check it out, look around, and be inspired!

Thank you, Alice, for sharing your knowledge!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Handy Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Chrome

Sometimes using the mouse just takes up extra time.  I've got some handy keyboard shortcuts for you today that will save you some time and effort when working in Google Chrome.

Control-T (Command-T for Mac) - This will open a new tab.

Control-W (Command-W) - This will close the active tab.  The active tab is whatever tab you are currently working in.  This can come in especially handy if you are working through a whole class of Google Docs.

Control-Shift-T (Command-Shift-T) - This will reopen the last tab you closed.  This is really useful if you accidentally closed a tab, or realize you needed one more thing from the document or web page you just closed.  Google Chrome remembers the last 10 tabs you closed.

Control-Tab (Works for Mac also!) - This will switch you to the next open tab (moves you one tab to the right).  If you are on your last tab, it will take you back to the first one.

Control-Shift-Tab (Also works for Mac) - This will switch you to the previous tab (moves you one tab to the left).  If you are on your first tab, it will take you to the last tab.

Control-1 through Control-8 (Command-1 through Command-8) - This will take you to tab in that position across the top of your screen.  For instance, if you want the third tab from the left, you push Control-3 (Command-3).  If you are like me and often have more than 8 tabs open, Control-9 (Command-9) will take you to the last tab, no matter how many tabs are open.

This one does use a mouse - but I use it quite a bit, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Press Control (Command) while you click a link - This will open the link in a new tab.  You can then click on that tab to see the new webpage.  This works especially well if you are doing a Google Search.  You can open several of the links that look promising as you look through the results and then click through the tabs to view.  It also means you don't have to hit the back button to return to your results because they stay open in the original tab.  If you want it to open the results in a new tab and have it take you to directly to that tab, you can press Control-Shift (Command-Shift) while you click the link.

Thank you for stopping by the TeachingTechNix blog.  Stop by again soon for more handy tech tips!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Keyboard Shortcut for Adding a Comment in Google Docs

Like I've said before, I love using Google Docs with my students and leaving them comments as feedback on their writing.  Leaving comments for students is great, but there is a bit of clicking involved.  These keyboard shortcuts have shortened up the process significantly, especially if I'm using a device with a touchpad instead of a mouse.

If you aren't already familiar with making comments on a Google Doc, click here to read my introductory post.

To make your comment - position your cursor or highlight the desired text and then press Control-Alt-M (Command-Option-M for Mac).  This will open up the comment window.  Type in your comment and then hit Control-Enter (Command-Enter for Mac) to submit the comment.  Simple I know, but it saves so much time when you are grading multiple documents in one sitting.

Try this out next time you leave comments on a doc.  Trust me, you'll never go back to using the mouse!

Stop in again soon for more handy tech tips!

Helping teachers incorporate technology, one tech tip at a time.