Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Google Account Security Checkup

Over the course of a school year, you might grant permission for a number of apps and web based resources to access your Google account. Doing so is convenient because it reduces the need to create and memorize login credentials for every service and tool you might try. Granting apps permission to use your Google credentials also creates a richer, more robust application ecosystem. Apps like WeVideo, Pixlr, and dozens of others really work well when they can open and save files directly with your Google Drive.

Still, it is important to be mindful of the apps to which you granted permissions and periodically review the permissions. Did you stop using an app? Revoke its permissions. Did a company close operations and take your favorite app into a digital oblivion? Revoke the app's permissions. Did your favorite app fall out of favor, or is it something you just don't use anymore? Revoke its permissions.

Revoking app permissions is part of a general Google security checkup. The security checkup is quickly and easily done. You should perform it on your school account, and especially on any personal or Google accounts you have. The holiday break is a great time to run the security check and it takes just a few minutes. The video below demonstrates one way to launch and complete the Google Account Security Checkup.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Managing Your One To One Classroom

Kids are watching videos in my class! Kids are streaming music, texting, or doing other stuff on their laptops in my class. They're cheating on the online tests! Their phones are always out! I can't stand it anymore! I want a tool that lets me view their screens and lock them down! I am going to buy a jammer to block cell phone signals in my classroom (drawing unwanted FCC attention as a byproduct)! I have heard the above loudly and clearly from several high school teachers and understand the concerns. After a few years in a computer and technology rich education environment, you might think I have an easy button solution. I don't. But, I will share some thoughts, hoping they are received in the collegial vein they are offered.
Mobile Futures
Image: NYC Media Lab

I have used Lan School (and students have written about how to disable tools like Lan School), and similar screen monitoring tools. When used for collaboration, management tools like Lan School are excellent at projecting student screens or helping a student remotely. But used in an Orwellian capacity, they fail, and are even more abysmal when used to meet punitive measures. They are about as well received by students as an overbearing district content filter or a computer use monitoring policy would be received by you, a classroom teacher. Lan School and similar tools are not a replacement for clear, concise, and consistently applied classroom management strategies. Further, screen monitoring might help you enforce the life and career skills accountability and productivity, but screen monitoring removes a student's ability to authentically practice accountability and productivity as outlined by Screen monitoring will give you one more thing to login to, one more thing to monitor, and one more thing to divert your own attention from the real action; face to face, one on one interaction with kids. At best, screen monitoring software is a sandbag on the levy of life. Students still have unfettered access to the world's knowledge and entertainment base from their personal devices and absent effective classroom management strategies will, like water, overrun your sandbag. Considering a nerdy perspective, Lan School would be one more performance sapping software on devices, and it would potentially generate performance degrading network traffic.

One key to tech classroom management is promulgating firm, clear, consistent expectations. If students shouldn't be on their laptops, the laptops should be closed. If students have no reason to be using a cell phone, the phone should be out of sight. Some teachers effectively employ phone jails or collection boxes students voluntarily use. You are the boss, the setter of tones and paces in your room. Model your expectations. Practice your expectations. Reinforce your expectation again and again. When students need to be called out or parents need to be called, be a proactive, consistent communicator. Live by your rules and make them an intrinsic part of your learning environment. Beth Brocato offers this iPad checklist as a great way to begin the conversation about your classroom expectations.

There are steps that educators can take immediately to help manage the high tech classroom. I offer this slightly dated classroom management article as a conversation starter, where Author Mike Hasley opines,
Let the kids know when and when not to have their laptops out for use. If you are doing a non-laptop activity, no kids should be using laptops.

The article is vintage 2007, around the birthday of the smartphone, so does not mention smart phones at all. Yet the new gadgets are in your classroom adding to your list of concerns. Maybe we can sequel the article with modern best practices that reflect classroom technology as it stands today. What are your best practices to effectively manage classroom technology?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Changes Headed Your Way

When Carin Corcoran said, "I want to use Google Classroom with my students." I did a double take. I've seen fourth and even third graders use Google Classroom effectively, but never imagined introducing any Learning Management System to second graders. Carin and I had several good conversations about learning objectives first, then looked at how Google Classroom (or any other LMS) might be leveraged to help students meet those objectives. 1989 was my last 'formal' classroom experience with second graders, and I really wondered about her students' developmental readiness to latch onto the fairly esoteric concepts of digital document distribution and submission. I had not been so unnerved in a classroom in quite some time.
Second graders completing a word bank
project through Google Classroom

Due in large part to Carin's excellent instruction, her calm, unflappable demeanor, and enthusiasm for the project, I am happy to report that the LMS was a solid contributor to teaching and learning that morning. Carin's and her students' success got me thinking about technology's impact on the face of teaching and learning across our district, and what exposure to and use of technology for teaching and learning at the lower grade levels means for junior and senior high learning environments.

Tech being 'taught' at the junior and senior high will, in short order, no longer need to be introduced at the middle and upper levels. Students in elementary grades right now are already

  • Using learning management systems like Google Classroom, Dojo,  and Reading Street, among others to communicate with their teachers and peers, and receive and submit digital content, and review feedback. You will not have to teach students the mechanics of an LMS like Google Classroom, Edmodo, Schoology, or 2020's next big thing. They will arrive with that background in place and the expectation that teachers will use it.
  • Sharing and Collaboration. Students at the elementary school level are already sharing documents and presentations with peers for various collaborative endeavors. You will not have to explain sharing. Rather, you might consider the ramifications of sharing, with whom sharing is appropriate, and digital footprints.
  • Slide shows and presentations. Students at the elementary schools choose presentation platforms. Frequent choices are Prezi and Google Slides. Middle and high school teachers will no longer have to instruct in the use of presentation tools, but instead will have the luxury of helping students dive more deeply into subject content, or master the nuances of awesome presentation tactics.
  • Printing. With a good LMSs in place, there are fewer reasons to print. There is little student printing taking place at the elementary schools.
  • Formative assessment is alive and well at lower levels. More formal 'quiz' based tools abound, and tools like Dojo provide nearly continuos, real time feedback. Younger students are living within this digital learning realm and, I suspect, will expect similar tools by which to gauge their performance in middle and high school.
  • Technology is getting and staying out of users' way. Our district's IT department keeps a robust, highly resilient network in smooth operation. While reliance on technology makes connectivity issues that much more painful, outages are rare and brief. Seriously. Our district's bandwidth is ample and amazing. Having plan B is still important, but is less critical than at any time in the past.
  • Fourth graders in Mrs. Lavoie's class recently created surveys using Google Forms to collect data from their piers. You are less likely to be teaching the mechanics of survey building at the middle and high school, but will enjoy the opportunity to help students shape stronger questions for the purpose of supporting or refuting a hypothesis.

Monday, November 23, 2015

More On Printing

Teachers at Wawaloam use Pearson SuccessNet resources. SuccessNet has videos which are solid resources for teachers and students. Unfortunately, Pearson embeds the SuccessNet videos inside PDF files. (Seriously, why build that proprietary hurdle, Pearson? Why?)

In order to view the SuccessNet videos, IT installed Adobe Reader on many Wawaloam teachers' laptops. With the Adobe Reader installed, SuccessNet videos play well. A big problem is, the Adobe Acrobat Reader installation disables Chrome's ability to display PDF files natively. That's a problem for EWG teachers who want to print PDF files to a school printer.

There is, however, an easy way to toggle how your Macbook - and Chrome - handle PDF files. Simply put, when you want to print your PDFs to a school printer, you enable Chrome's default PDF viewer. And, when you want to play a Reading Street video, you disable Chrome's default PDF viewer.

Don't panic. The straightforward process of toggling between the two modes is outlined in the video below.

Once you set Chrome to use its built in, default viewer, you can send PDFs directly to SharpFindMe via Cloudprint. If you're not sure how to do that, there is a brief video that demonstrates printing PDFs in EWG that was included in a recent post.

Still stuck? Please contact me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

How Large Is That Font?

At Wawaloam, a teacher tried to print a list of sight words using a serif type face at 300 points to Sharp Find Me. The prints were mangled and or blank. Through some trial and error, we discovered the maximum type size Sharp Find Me can handle. The magic number is 231. Anything bigger prints as a blank. Who knew? If you want to print larger than 231 points to Sharp Find Me, you can take a screenshot of the word, scale the image, then print the image. Cumbersome, but doable. Or, print to a different printer such as a home inkjet.

EWG's Cloud Printing Revisited

In a post last year, I described a tedious method to print word documents and other local files to EWG's cloud printers using an application called CloudPrint. During the last year, the CloudPrint application moved from 'free' to $1.99. Users balked. While the CloudPrint app *could* be side loaded to circumvent the expense, I had a hard time reconciling side loading with ISTE-T standard 4a.

The video below shows you how to CloudPrint from word or any other local application on your Mac sans CloudPrint. The solution is simple, fast, and easy. I wish I had thought of it last year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

On Passwords

Do you know your Apple ID and password for your school Apple account?

Come on. Be honest. How about logging into Pearson Success Net (Reading Street) on the first, second, or third attempt? Could you? Setting up classes in Mathletics (Every Day Math) requires its own sign in. Do you know yours? What happens when you get locked out of an important classroom resource, or cannot apply a critical update? To whom do you turn? How long does it take? What opportunities are delayed or lost? I ask because in my travels throughout the district, I see password and account overload taking a growing chunk out of your valuable time. Your frustration is compounded by the fact that some of the tools you use - especially your Apple ID - are external to EWG, leaving EWG's IT or other support staff unable to assist you. Other tools are managed by people within EWG, but finding the right contact can be a frustrating slog through "That's not my department" email threads. While you are locked out, you or your students are waiting. It has never been more important to fine tune your password acumen. What follows are some suggestions on where to start.

Biometrics can be strong password solutions with fingerprint and facial recognition leading the consumer options, but they are not viable options for students awaiting your assessment activation. And, biometrics probably won't be available on school resources for a while, as much ed based tech still suffers a lagging adoption process.

Some people use the same password for everything. Doing so is total madness. Seriously. Don't use the same password for every site. Consider variants of a common password. More on this thought later.

Some have a master password list in a document or in a physical notepad. As long as your resource is readily accessible, such a strategy can make sure you and your students can access Mathletics or some other resource when the laptop cart is in your room. However, the same convenience of accessibility raises a proportional risk of accessibility by the bad guys and gals of the digital underworld. Still, a master password list for your school resources might be an acceptable risk if you squirrel it away well. A school password list in the hands of a mischievous student would make for a bad week, but its financial reward to a hacker is negligible.

A few colleagues are beginning to use password managers, like PadlockLastPass, Passwords, and others. Password managers range from free, minimalist approaches to subscription models with lots of powerful options. Password managers work, and can make your life easier. But, I have a problem with password managers. Using a password manager to secure and open all of your online IDs still leaves you vulnerable. If your password manager is hacked, so too is the entire digital realm 'protected' by the same. Don't think that password managers cannot be broken. Remember Target, Home Depot, OPM, DOD, and ...

It is easy to suggest that you simply use a different password for every single digital sign on you might have. The reality is, it is much tougher to remember and use 50 plus unique, strong passwords. But there are a few suggestions I can offer here to help you make strong, unique passwords that are reasonably easy to remember.

I like the kid (and adult) friendly password generator Much like the AOL passwords of the nineties, dinopass suggests easy to remember passwords. Try it. Thumb through dinopass' rolodex of silly, memorable passwords. Latch onto one that you might use as a 'master' password. Add at least one space in the password. In a password sandwich maneuver , modify the password slightly from site to site. Consider using a site specific suffix (apl for Apple, Irdy for i-Ready) to your 'master' password to help protect the integrity of all your passwords as you traverse from site to site. You might have a password scheme that looks like this for various digital identities:

  • ja2zy Skunk35Apl
  • ja2zy Skunk35Aspn
  • ja2zy Skunk35IRDY

 I like this approach and have seen it work well for people who have taken a brief time to implement it. They rarely forget a password and seldom need a site's password recovery options.

Many systems require a mix of upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and a sprinkling of special characters. That's too bad, because such requirements just add unnecessary complexity. Does it really matter how many $p3c!al characters you use in a password? Nope. Password length trumps complexity. Consider the difference in time to brute force break the password  "iown2dogs" versus "i own 2 dogs". The second version is considered to be 'safe' for centuries. The linked article is a fascinating read.

If password travails are wrecking your school day, or if you would like to work toward some sanity for your school based password system, let me know. I would be happy to work with you. Better still, if you have a solid password strategy that works well, share it with us.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Day Two Takeaways From MassCUE 2015

The best sessions are workshops where ideas are cultivated in the absence of vendors and proprietary cash sinks. Today's highlight was the collaboration lead by Dr. Kristen Swanson, author of Professional Learning in the Digital Age:  The Educator's Guide to User-Generated Learning. Simply fantastic session where participants began to consider the impact of technology on learning with research. I left with a lot to think about. If you ever go to MassCUE, load your schedule with "Featured Speakers".

Other takeaways:

When WiFi breaks, a presenter's session breaks, as does the workshop in which participants are supposed to practice.

I finally learned how and when to discretely leave an in-session workshop that would not be useful to me.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of vendors displaying "education solutions".

More vendors
Even more vendors
The Microsoft Booth.
A Google workshop five minutes later. Standing room only.

I am conferenced out, and eager to rejoin the work taking place in EWG classrooms!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Day one takeaways from MassCUE 2015

  • Students as collaborators.
  • Students as thinkers.
  • Students as creators of content and things.
  • Education is messy.
    • You will make mistakes.
    • And that's okay.
  • Blended learning!
  • You will become increasingly irrelevant if you are not embracing and using technology to reinvent teaching and learning, empower your students, and engage them in purposeful use of the tools with which they are familiar.
Really looking forward to day two!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Exam View Updates

A number of teachers still use the venerable Exam View suite of tools to create assessments for their students. A popular feature of Exam View is to export assessments as web pages so that students can complete the self scoring quizzes online. Google Drive has helped serve Exam View web based assessments for about three years now, but that is about to change. Effective September 1, 2016, Google will reportedly shut down the ability to serve web pages directly from Google drive. While you don't have to worry about that eventuality this moment, you should keep it on your radar. There are probably a dozen great alternatives to help you continue serving your Exam View web pages, but I struggled to find worthy contenders free of monetary cost. Consequently, I began examining the possibility of using my own Macbook as a device on which to host and serve Exam View assessments. What follows is a video that muddles through the basics of hosting Exam View assessments on your Macbook. It's not at all difficult, and it works well. If you have questions, or would like to try it on your own Macbook, contact me.

Turn Off Google Classroom Notifications

The sheer volume of email from Google Classroom notifications can be annoying and overwhelming. You could create a rule to divert the notifications to a Gmail label or configure a rule to delete the notifications from your inbox. A better way is to simply turn the notifications off. Here's how:

  • Click the settings grill in Google Classroom.
  • Scroll all the way to the bottom.
  • Click settings.
  • Uncheck 'Send email notifications'.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Is It Google, Or Is It My Device?

A question I am frequently asked is, "Is it Google, the Internet, or my computer"? The Apps Status Dashboard is a good resource to help answer the question. At the Apps Status Dashboard, you will find current and historical information on ailments various Google Apps may be suffering or might have endured. As nerd mind candy, the Apps Status Dashboard is neat bonus.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

EWG Help Desk Is Easier To Use & More Functional

EWG IT rolled out a new help desk and trouble ticket system this year called
Zendesk. Zendesk is a big improvement over what had been in place during the previous few years. The fact that it uses your school email credentials makes it easier to login to Zendesk; no additional username and password to remember! Its reporting features and cleaner, leaner interface make for a better overall experience.

As awesome as Zendesk's interface and feature set is, users still like to send trouble tickets by email directly to one of the IT people. There are many reasons for sending help requests via email, including users' relative comfort with email and email being a one stop location for much of their school based communication. But sending a tech help request via email directly to one of the IT people can circumvent the usefulness of Zendesk and add another step for IT staff.

A few days ago, I stumbled on to a super cool feature of Zendesk that many users are going to like. If you send email directly to help@ewg.k12... (complete address intentionally omitted to thwart spam bots) your email will automatically be added to Zendesk where it will directly enter the service queue. Additionally, if you CC people - perhaps a colleague for whom the tech issue is also relevant - your email will automatically include them in the conversation and forthcoming solution. It's a pretty powerful win that can help all involved parties participate in the loop and stay informed.

Next time you have a tech issue, try it. Send an email to help@ewg.k12....

Friday, October 2, 2015

Laptop Insurance

Traveling throughout the district, I have encountered a sizable number of teachers who did not know that fairly priced insurance was available for their school issued Macbook. Consequently, I am alerting you to the fact that the district has partnered with Worth Ave Group to provide coverage for school issued Macbooks. Why? Well, certain creative, destructive actions such as driving over, dropping, poring coffee into, or swimming with your Macbook are not covered by the standard Apple warranty. Theft isn't covered, either. The Macbook is a pricey unit to repair or replace on your own. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues have experienced those expenses. If you are so inclined, you may purchase the insurance from A year of full, no deductible coverage runs about $70.00 and covers you when the student borrowing your laptop clumsily drops it on a hard tile floor. ;-)

Insurance Application Screenshot

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Listen Up Exam View Users!

For a few years now, Google has let you serve web pages from your Google Drive. Using Google Drive as a web server has been an excellent way to serve Exam View tests as  a web page to students. Google Drive served the web page, students completed the assessment, and Exam View scored and reported the results. Beautiful and elegant? Not particularly. Highly functional? You bet.

Google recently announced that it will be deprecating the ability to serve web pages from Google Drive, and that web page serving through drive will cease after August 31, 2016.  The demise of the Google Drive web server means big changes for Exam View users who post their tests online via Google Drive. Simply put, you won't be able to serve your exam view tests online as web pages with Google Drive after this academic year.

Some of the Exam View test banks and the Exam View programs in use in our District are nearing fifteen years in age. Fifteen years in computing time is several epochs! We've got 11 months to come up with an alternative way to host online Exam View tests. Personally, I'm not interested in creating yet another work around to drag into the future a program that should have long ago have been updated.

Let's resolve:

  • No more virtual boxes or other kludges to cobble Exam View success. 
Some alternatives to investigate:
  • Exam View Cloud (Now called TurningPoint Cloud) : Is it real and can it work?
  • Can Exam View test banks be adapted to 
    • Google Forms / Flubaroo?
    • Socrative?
    • Edmodo?
    • Serve the exams directly from your Macbook's web server?
    • Host the Exam View web pages on a paid service like Drop Box?
    • Something else?
Of course, if you use Exam View to *print* exams, deprecation of the Google Drive web server is not an issue for you. But, if you are serving Exam View pages for online tests, now is the time to budget for or otherwise agitate for Exam View's successor. Eleven months to go.

UPDATE 10/1/2015:
I was able to serve an Exam View web based test from for free, and without advertisements!

Additionally, I was able to start the built in web server on my Macbook and serve Exam View tests to several student testers. This method was very easy to implement.

Whoop! Maybe 16+ years and new life for old Exam View?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

3D Printing

Coming soon to the EWG Junior Senior High School Library.  Be a part of this! Come make something with us!

Wanhao Duplicator i3 first run

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Printing From Your EWG Chromebook

Chromebooks use Google's Cloudprint to print documents, sheets, presentations, and anything else you might display through the Chrome browser. It is a pretty straightforward system, and usually works well. If you have a Cloud Ready Printer, you can print to it, and you can even share that Cloud Ready printer with other people just like you would share a Google Doc. That is exactly what the EWG School District has done. It has some Cloud Ready printers that it has shared with teachers and students. If you are a student, you'll have access to some printers, and teachers will have access to other printers. Maybe a friend has a Cloud Ready printer that they have shared with you, or you might have one you shared with others. The video below demonstrates how to locate and print to a cloud printer.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

From Hours To Seconds: Informed Decisions Sans Hassle

Stack of stuff
Yes, this is the real, actual stack.
Last April, I was working with an elementary school teacher who pointed to a stack of paper proclaiming, "I've got four IEP reviews Monday morning, so I'll be spending Sunday going through that stack of records." That stack was full of student objectives, student progress, meeting minutes, milestones, and more, I imagine. None of it was sorted, none of it searchable, and none of it very well organized. Fast forward to September, 2015, where the teacher has created several spreadsheets to store information about student objectives and progress, and has begun entering lots of information into those spreadsheets. The same teacher is now only seconds away from using real, live, powerful information. Whether for an IEP review, or to determine which students to pull for services, the information is now just several clicks - and several seconds - away. The video below shows how filters can be used on spreadsheets to sort, slice, and dice large amounts of information into manageable, highly useful chunks. If you have a process that could be made easier or more effective through a spreadsheet or other technology and you would like to explore some opportunities, please let me know.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

iPad Google Classroom Workaround

Just in time for school's start, updates to iOS, Google Classroom, and Google Drive conspired to make opening word documents and pdf files impossible for some iPad users. Google acknowledges the issue, and is reportedly working on a fix. In the meantime, you can still open word and pdf documents on your iPad when a teacher distributes them through Google Classroom. The video below shows the quick, easy steps to importing from a Google Classroom document to Notability.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Chromebook WiFi At Home

If you are experiencing issues with your Chromebook's ability to connect to your home WiFi, here are some steps that you can take to resolve the issue.
  • Close the Chrome Browser.
  • Click the button in the lower right hand corner of your Chromebook screen.
  • Click Settings.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page, then click Show Advanced Settings.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the Advanced Settings page and click the Reset Settings button.
  • Reset settings twice! If once is good, twice is better!
  • THIS PART IS IMPORTANT:  You must FIRST login to your Chromebook while still in school.
  • Once you get home, connect to your home WiFi in the normal way using the appropriate password.
  • When you launch a web browser, the iBoss sign in page will display.
  • Be patient! Some students reported that it takes a minute for the connection to start working. If at first you get an error message when you try to load a page, go get a snack, text a friend, or sing your favorite song for 60 seconds. Give it a minute, and try again.
  • *** REALLY SUPER IMPORTANT UPDATE:  10/15/2015. **  IT has learned that you must visit a site that does not use https to kick the connection into action. That means visiting a site or web page that doesn't use encryption FIRST, before trying to go anywhere else. Any site that starts with http:// and not https:// will work. Such sites include and and a bunch of others. You will need to visit a non encrypted web site FIRST each time you fire up and connect through your home wifi.
  • Happy computing.
  • If your home WiFi still doesn't work, complete this form, and someone will work with you directly.

Resetting Chrome will erase all cookies, saved passwords, and other detritus, and extensions will be disabled. You might be required to restart the Chromebook. At any rate, your Chrome browser should be restored to brand new condition.

The video below shows the steps to perform the reset, though the reset button is not actually clicked.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Chromebook Serial Numbers

HEY! Don't pull the serial numbers off the back of your Chromebooks.
Why? If your Chromebook breaks and gets sent to HP for warranty repair, one of the first things HP looks for is the serial number. If the serial number is missing, the machine cannot be identified. In such cases, HP sends the device back to the district in the same state of disrepair, and YOU get to eat the cost of repair. Students have pulled the serial numbers from about ten district issued Chromebooks already. Think! Serial numbers are a good thing to leave on your Chromebook.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chromebook WiFi at Home

Updated directions are included here.

The directions below are old, and probably never worked correctly. ;-)

Here are the steps to get your EWG Chromebook connected to your home WiFi.

  1. You must login to your Chromebook in school first. If you don't login at school first, logging in at home won't work.
  2. When you get home, login to your Chromebook.
  3. Click the settings icon in the lower right hand corner.
  4. Click the WiFi menu.
  5. Select your home WiFi.
  6. Enter your home WiFi password.
  7. A screen called Mobile Login will appear. You may ignore it and the following sign in screen. They will disappear on their own. Give them a few seconds to blink out.
  8. Another screen requesting access to some Google credentials will appear. You must grant the request by clicking the accept button.
  9. You should be connected through your home WiFi.
New this year:  Your Chromebook is managed by the EWG school district, and the content you are able to load on the Chromebook is filtered by the district's content filters. The IT department is fine tuning the filtering system at this time. If you find an important resource is blocked, you may submit a request to unblock the site via the district's new trouble ticket system. If you submit a request, sign in with your school Google account.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Restore Google Drive In Finder

Recently, a colleague asked why Google Drive no longer displayed in her MacBook's Finder. The most likely reason is that she dragged it out of finder, or specifically selected the option to remove it from Finder's sidebar. The absence of Google Drive made saving downloads directly to Google Drive a multi-step hassle. Restoring Google Drive to Finder's sidebar is easily done, and is outlined in the video below. If Google Drive has gone missing from your Macbook's Finder, try to restore it by following the steps in the video.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Taking your stuff with you

Over the last few days, and especially the last few hours, I helped a number of retirees archive their documents, email, and files. If you are leaving the district for retirement or other reasons, here are some suggestions to make the process smooth and painless.

  1. Plan ahead. You should not decide to archive gigabytes of content an hour before you plan a permanent exit. Archiving is going to take some time.
  2. Cull your files before you archive. Do you really need a curriculum template from 1996 or a vendor's PDF quote from 2001? Cull, cull, cull.
  3. Make one online archive. Choose a service like Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, or the next big online file hosting company that you trust to store worksheets, reference letters, quizzes, and tests. Then back up to that one resource one time. You're not backing up state secrets, so multiple backups are simply overkill.
  4. If you are nervous about suggestion three, back up to a flash drive, too.
  5. Don't trust flash a flash drive for long term storage. Eventually, you will misplace it, static shock it, accidentally erase it, or send it through the laundry.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Print To Sharp Find Me From Your Phone Or Tablet

Around the year 2003, the printer in the 204 computer lab had an accident. I was overjoyed. I rarely printed then, and I print even less frequently now. Like you, though, I still occasionally wrestle with network printing, and this morning was one of those fun moments. I printed a document, trudged across the building, badged into the printer and released the print job. Right away, I noticed a typo in the first paragraph. Hike back and forth across the building to resend my print job? Not a chance; I'm far too lazy for that. While standing next to the printer, I opened the document from my phone, corrected the typo, and reprinted. Seconds later, and without a trip across the building, the corrected document was freshly printed.

Printing to the district's cloud printers with your mobile devices is here, it's real, and it works well. Yes, you can print to the Sharpe copiers from iPads, iPhones, and the entire Android family! Apple users need to make sure Google Drive is installed first. If you don't have Google Drive on your iPad or iPhone, get it here. Google Drive is already installed on Android devices. From your mobile device, sign in to your Google Drive account using your school credentials (first_last@ewg.k12...) Be sure to use your school account, not a home or consumer account, since only your school account has access to EWG's printers. If you are having trouble starting Google Drive on your iPad, this short video will help you get going.

The videos below show the rest of the printing process. The first video shows printing from Apple Devices, and the second demonstrates printing from Android devices. Cloud printing from mobile devices works, and works well. Give it a try!

Printing from Apple devices.

Printing from Android devices.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Exit Tickets and Online Assessment Tools

Last spring, principals were part of a workshop that focused on online formative assessment tools. If you are curious about using online tools for formative or summative assessment, the presentation includes a few tools for your consideration.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Backing Up Your Aspen Gradebook

I can't imagine the horror of losing even a single assignment to Aspen's digital whims, and really feel for anyone who lost an entire quarter's grades. The suggestion to backup your gradebook regularly is something I should have made long ago. For at least one colleague, backing up is too late. Did Aspen eat the grades? Was the wrong 'option' accidentally chosen? No one knows. But, understand that future loss of assignments and grades can be eliminated. The video below shows one simple, quick, solid method to backup your Aspen gradebook. Repeat after me:  "I will learn how to backup my gradebook today, and will backup my gradebook on a regular basis."

Aspen Average Errors

Aspen is presenting fuzzy numbers for some teachers in the semester 2 column of their Aspen gradebooks. I do not know why, and I am unable to offer a fix for the issue. Higher powers are going to have conjure a solution, or, perhaps, show us what we are doing wrong with our gradebooks. There is a view in Aspen, however, which will provide semester two averages using numbers that are in sharper focus. The settings you can use to display the correct semester 2 average are detailed in the video below.

On a related note, while researching the average calculation error issue, I discovered that not all teachers are sure about options for calculating quarter averages. Aspen does correctly calculate quarter averages, but uses one of four methods to do so. You need to choose the method(s) that make sense for your situation. This quick read highlights the various methods used by Aspen to calculate averages. You should review it to be certain that the averages are being calculated according to your preferred method. Understanding how quarter averages are calculated is important because order of operations differences between methods can sway quarter averages slightly. Again, you should review the quarter average calculation methods. The video below shows how the average calculation options can be set.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Plenty of bits per second

During a recent conversation with our IT Director, Jeff, he quoted some amazing numbers about our district's bandwidth.

  • Bandwidth 2014-2015:  250 Mbps with burst rates to 375 Mbps
  • 2014-2015 cost:  ~20K
  • Bandwidth 2015-2016:  500 Mbps with burst rates to 750 Mbps
  • 2015-2016 cost: ~20K
Nerds and bandwidth hogs rejoice. EWG's bandwidth is incredible!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Problem Solving in Grade 5 Math

A few weeks ago, students in Mrs. Gouveia's fifth grade math classes recently completed a collaborative problem solving project and they used flip chart paper to illustrate their solutions.
Flip Chart Problem Solving
Tuesday of this week, Mrs. Gouveia and her students used Google Drawings to collaborate on a similar project. I had the distinct pleasure of working with her students to demo the software and help squelch any technical issues. Happily, EWG's technology remained innocuous and once again, the wireless systems and Chromebooks rocked. Kids were not just engaged, but empowered, and used processes they will be expected to master for classes in Metcalf and beyond. Watching students move beyond simply 'getting the right answer' to describing in detail how a unique, correct solution was reached was an eye opener. Rich, collaborative conversation about how and why solutions work was had. In addition to solving the problems, students learned how to

  • Use technology to illustrate and narrate a solution
  • Use technology to collaborate
  • Practice good digital citizenship
  • Present completed works with technology
  • Write about a solution
  • Have a blast!
Digital Drawing Problem Solving
If you would like me to work with your students on similar projects, contact me. Let's have a conversation about student learning objectives and how incorporating technology can improve teaching and learning.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Two In One

Colleagues recently asked how to remove images from the library's iPads. Wether the images are consuming too much storage space, or the images are simply inappropriate, the following sixty second clip can help turn you into an iPad cleansing super power.

Occasionally, we all make mistakes editing documents, spreadsheets, or presentations. Sometimes, the mistakes are horrific, panic inducing events. Don't worry. Google's office tools have a feature called Revision History that lets you go back in time to restore documents to the state they enjoyed prior to your 'major whoops'.  The video below illustrates how to use revision history.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Windows Password and Wireless?

This morning, I worked with a teacher who could not connect to the ewg_staff wireless network with her MacBook Air. She is one of a few teachers who makes frequent use of a windows workstation connected to the EWG network. Interestingly, the same login name (first_last) used to login to an EWG windows workstation also permits wireless connections to ewg_staff. Last week, she changed her windows password. I'll leave what happens to your MacBook's connection to ewg_staff to your imagination. If you change your windows password, that new windows password becomes your password for accessing ewg_staff. Yes, you will need to reconnect your MacBook to ewg_staff using your *new* windows password. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Metcalf's Wireless and Fourth Graders Rock!

Working with two fourth grade classes on a compare and contrast presentation project was a blast, today. Two classes of students packed into one classroom and opened 46 Chromebooks. Add to that a couple of Macbooks, a few phones, and an iPad, and we were over 50 devices.The Aruba access point(s) performed perfectly. No one dropped a connection, and the bandwidth was good enough to provide awesome responsiveness. I need an "I love my Arubua Access Point" bumper sticker.

I've mentioned a number of times that what is taking place in the elementary schools is going to be disruptive to the junior and senior high schools. I mean that in a good way. Third graders are using learning management systems, and sixth graders are editing video. Today, fourth graders made their first presentations. For all but a few, it was their first experience creating a presentation. Ever! The results were beyond our expectations, as the students created amazing work. Look out world! We'll post some samples later.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Occasionally, technology teaches you painful lessons. Today's lesson is courtesy of Apple iMovie. If you ever offer assistance on an iMovie project, and you work directly on an iMovie library that is shared and synced via a cloud service like Box or Google Drive, make sure you are both using the exact same version of iMovie. And, make sure there is no concurrent editing taking place. And make sure the person who is going to have to upgrade to regain access to his or her newly updated iMovie library is amenable to upgrading as much as their entire OSX installation.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thwarting Assessment Theft

Send me a copy of my responses? From this assessment? "Why wouldn't I want to do that?" asks every student. Such was the topic of an ongoing conversation with a half dozen high school colleagues over the last month. Here is the long version.

A growing number of teachers are using Google Forms for everything from exit tickets to more formal, objective, summative assessments. An option in Google Forms allows the form to automatically collect a user's name and email address. When a form creator selects said option to automatically collect a user's name, a second option is also turned on. The second option allows the form user - the person completing the form, exit ticket, or test - to check the option "Send me a copy of my responses." It looks like this:

That's where the consternation starts. Can students send themselves a copy of their results and your form's questions? Yes.

What to do?

There are some specific things that you can do to turn off the "Send me a copy of my results" option which I'll address in a moment. In the meantime, I want you to consider that addressing this deficiency by unchecking an option box leaves pretty fertile ground for the creative in your classes to employ any of dozens of ways to digitally zap a copy of the exit ticket or assessment to a faraway destination. Every device can screen capture. Screen captures essentially save the screen as an image. Screen captures are immediate and surreptitious. Monitoring and attempting to stop screen captures would be a fools errand. Only the most sophisticated assessment tools like Peasrson's PARCC can hope to deter the lifting and zapping of content. (Given lucrative contracts, Pearson invested the coin to bolster assessment security and make duplication tools like screen captures impractical.)

So, is your use of online assessment a broken, lost cause? I don't think so. Online assessment continues to grow at an amazing rate. EWG's Cisco Networking Academy used online assessments from the late 90s through its discontinuation in 2013. Consider other blended learning tools like Edgenuity or iReady, both of which are being used in EWG right now. They all have built in, online assessment tools, and none of them are impervious to copying or theft. Like banking and electronic commerce in general, every assessment tool is exploitable. Whether your tool of choice is Kahoot!, Schoology, Socrative, Edmodo, Google Forms, Formative, Quiz Socket, Quizlet, or the dozens of others you might consider, they all can be stolen. Really, any lock you apply is only going to stop the honest among us.

I can not offer a magic keystroke to guarantee the sanctity of your exams, but will suggest some strategies. What this district lacks in formal digital citizenship conversation is something you'll have to address with students through frank discussion, among other strategies. Rearranging desks or chairs during the exam so that you have a clear view of every screen sends the message that you are in vigilant mode. And, close examination of feature sets of various assessment tools will yield interesting options such as question order and answer order randomization. And some, like Socrative, by their single question per page nature make wholesale lifting of an entire assessment much more difficult. Others like Formative will let you watch every assessment being completed in real time. You can literally see every student's screen as the assessment is being completed, which makes it pretty difficult for a student to pull a fast one.

Regarding Google Forms' 'Send me a copy of my responses' option, here are some immediate steps you can take. First, uncheck the option to automatically collect user names and add a question in your assessment that asks a student to type in their name.

Then, make some noise so Google will address the issue and make it possible to collect user names while still preventing users from sending the results of their responses.

Finally, if your assessment is written, online, and leveraging Google Docs, understand that the platform offers amazing collaboration, and opens possibilities for 'unauthorized assessment collaboration'. But what most students don't realize is that the revision history in Docs makes ferreting illicit collaboration a snap. If you suspect nefarious activity and would like help building proof, let me know. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What does a model digital citizenship school look like?

The Meadowbrook School conducted a digital citizenship webinar yesterday. Presenters delivered a dynamic, enthusiastic session showcasing best practices for implementing a digital citizenship program in a school environment. Their emphasis was on positive uses of Internet resources. The absence of gloom and doom in their presentation was refreshing. Meadowbrook has a substantial Youtube presence, and has a digital citizenship playlist that is a good resource. To get a sense of Meadowbrook's approach to digital citizenship, their safe chatting video is a must watch. If you would like to earn your own CE certificate, you can watch the webinar recording on your own.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

PDF Markup Tool: iAnnotate

iAnnotate is available in the Chrome Web Store.
iAnnotate is a Chrome os extension that lets you edit, markup, and annotate PDF files. It is clearly one of the easiest and fastest tools for annotating a PDF that I've seen in a long time. Its integration with Google drive is seamless, and the app saves back to your drive on exit. Three shortcomings of iAnnotate include a lack of image support, a lack of equation editor support, and the extension does not work on chrome for Mac or PC. iAnnotate works only on iOS (iPad, iPhone), Android, and Chromebook devices . PDF Escape, with its dated, clunkier interface, fills the gaps left by iAnnotate by offering better functionality, and better support for Macs and PCs. I learned about iAnnotate through an OMG! Chrome! post.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to email parents through Aspen

During a workshop at Metcalf Wednesday, several teachers asked about the best way to email parents.  Some teachers were under the impression that they had to establish custom email lists through an awkward copy and paste into the school's email system. Not so! Parent and contact information is already entered into Aspen by administration so you can easily email parents directly through Aspen. Emailing parents through Aspen means you don't have to collect information from parents, distribute special codes for a learning management system, or ask parents to take on another username and password. Parents do not even have to login to or use their Aspen account to receive email from you. In a few clicks, you can send information to the contacts for every student in a class. The embedded video provides a brief overview of the process.

UPDATE, 3/12/2015
Colleagues asked how to send email to contacts and teachers of just a few students in the class. The images below should illustrate the process.

Update, 8/2018
Aspen's bulk email system has been blocked by aol, verizon, and yahoo mail systems from time to time as recently as the 2017-2018 academic year. If you're going to use Aspen's bulk emailer, you should enlist the help of parents with yahoo, aol, and verizon email addresses to vet its functionality.Your mileage may vary.

Printing Comments in Google Docs

Recently a colleague asked if it was possible to print a Google Doc and have the comments print, too. The short answer is yes, you can. Printing the comments requires a two step workaround, and until Google builds the option into docs directly, this might be your best and only option. The video below demonstrates the process.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Declutter YouTube

One of our colleagues was searching YouTube for resources on puberty recently. While she found excellent resources available, you might already imagine the detritus, advertisements, and related video links surrounding the main video. Some of it unsavory, and all of it blinking, flashing, and screaming for attention. You have probably been there, and might imagine her dismay. Her predicament reminded me of several tools that truly excel at cleaning up YouTube and removing its distractions. My personal favorite is SafeShare.TV. SafeShare.TV is easy to use, and it works well. Simply paste a YouTube video link into its web form, click the green button, and let it generate a safe view link. Clicking the safe view link will play your video, sans YouTube mess. SafeShare.TV has additional options for starting and stopping videos at specific times, too. Also, you can bookmark your safe view links so that you do not have to make a safe link every time you want to watch the video.

One thing that bothers me about SafeShare.TV is the link to download the video as an audo mp3 or as a video mp4. The link takes viewers to a spam laden page which requires Java to work. I am highly suspicious and will avoid it. I recommend you avoid it, too.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Free Google Drive Quota Increase

Google is making free drive storage space available to users who perform a two minute checkup of their account settings. The 2GB bump is permanent, and well worth doing, especially when you consider our expanding use of Google Drive. Note that this offer is only applicable on your consumer or home account, and does not apply to your EWG Google account, since the school account already has unlimited storage. You must take advantage of the offer prior to February 17. Get started at

Image:  CC0 Public Domain 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

No Google Docs App on your iPad?

Recently, a colleague asked how students could edit Google Docs on an iPads that did not have the Google Docs app already installed. The obvious best choice is to install the Google Docs app. But what if the iPad is locked down so that a user cannot install the Google Docs app? Use the built in Safari web browser! It's a bit kludgy, and not as fully featured as the desktop version (or the iPad app), but it works! The video below demonstrates how.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saving Explain Everything Projects to Google Drive

In a previous post, I wrote about using Google Drive to backup iPad files. During today's snow day, I made a video about using Google Drive specifically to save Explain Everything project files.

Explain everything is an incredible tool that turns your iPad into a multimedia creation powerhouse. I encourage you to use it with your classes as a way to make high impact presentations, videos, and print content. There are many excellent tutorials to help you get started with Explain Everything, but Jen Johnson's video tutorial is a super, concise, eight minute path to quick success. Remember that iPads are generally personal devices, and they are typically used by one person. At EWG, though, iPads are deployed in a multiuser environment in the high school and elementary schools. There are a couple of easy steps to make sure your project files are saved and backed up when you use Explain Everything on a shared, EWG iPad. Ensuring that your Explain Everything projects are backed up to the cloud will assure access to your projects no matter what iPad or device you use.

The process of saving to Google Drive is shown in the video below.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Life long learning

With increasing delight and frequency, I learn more from other people than they learn from me. I had a number of meetings where I left refreshed and looking forward to trying some new tool or practicing a new skill set. Here are the highlights of the last few days.

If you've ever tried to schedule an event between more than two people, you know finding a common time can be a hassle whose email, text, and phone load grows exponentially with the number of participants. End the scheduling mess with Doodle. Establish some dates, invite participants, and let the best available slots rise to the top. Hat tip, Gina K.

Common Sense Media has a free, rich, interactive resource called Digital Passport. The Digital Passport program starts the conversation about appropriate digital citizenship, including explorations of copyright etiquette, bullying, and searching, among others. It's not the be all and end all of digital citizenship, but it looks like a great place to start. We've already uploaded rosters to the Digital Passport portal, and will be piloting it with sixth graders over the coming weeks.
Hat tip: Jeff B.

Bookshare makes eTexts available to students with visual or other impairments. Over 321,000 titles are available. Free! And there are a lot of solid front ends for Bookshare, like read2go ($20 for iPad), and a bunch of free readers like firefly k3000, and others that work on anything with a browser. I'll be working with Metcalf teachers to learn how students choose books (or how teachers assign books - we're not sure how that part works) over the next week. Hat tip: Bette Jean B.

And finally, PBS Learning Media, I discovered, offers a wealth of standards aligned curriculum resources. Wawaloam teachers in particular, are looking for ways to make solid use of their interactive whiteboards. When I got asked to install one particular DVD (with its single user license) containing an interactive game about rhyming words on a bunch of laptops, I immediately looked for alternatives that were free, legal, and absent a requisite software install. I also used the teachable moment to talk about end user license agreements. PBS Learning Media is a searchable treasure trove of resources that elementary teachers are going to appreciate, and kids are likely to enjoy. I'm looking forward to working with teachers to show them how to search for and vet activities. Hat tip:  Me!

Have a restful weekend!