Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My Top 20 EdTech Posts of 2016

It was just one year ago that I launched the Control Alt Achieve blog. I have been involved in educational technology for over 20 years, and have had various websites, blogs, and podcasts over that time, but decided I needed to try something new.

So last December I started up Control Alt Achieve as a one-stop-shop for all of my resources, activities, help guides, training videos, and more.

And it has been a great first year!

During 2016 I shared 106 posts (not counting this one) and the site received a little over 1.3 million visits. However the most important statistic was the number of people who contacted me via email or Twitter or in the comments to share their awesome ideas, or to let me know how they used one of my resources in their class, or to share pictures of their students engaged in an activity I had posted.

Your comments and feedback mean so much! Over the years I have transitioned from being a classroom teacher to a tech integrationist at a district level to a tech integrationist at a regional level. It is so great to see that even though I am no longer in the classroom myself, the resources I share can still impact real students, helping them create, collaborate, write, learn, and explore.

Below are the top 20 posts from this year, based on the number of page views each received. I would encourage you to look through the list to see if there are some you missed the first time around, and consider sharing these resources with other educators you know who would benefit from them.

Finally there is a very short optional, anonymous feedback form at the bottom. Please feel free to provide some feedback to help me make 2017 even better!

Monday, December 19, 2016

What's New in Google - December 2016

Catch up on everything new in Google Apps over the last month, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our December 2016 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
The video from the meetings is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the December 2016 meeting:

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Build a Snowman with Google Slides

Do you want to build a snowman?

Well now you can with this fun, and educational, Google Slides activity. This is a great way for students to be creative and to work on their writing skills by describing or writing about their snowman.

Here’s how:

  • Make a copy of the Google Slides “Build a Snowman” template, found further down in the blog post.
  • The template has a blank snowman and several slides full of items to add to your snowman including eyes, mouths, hats, arms, feet, hair, and more.
  • Copy and paste the items to build your snowman.
  • If you need different pictures, you can search for more.
  • When done building, write about your snowman or snowwoman in the textbox. You can describe them, tell a story about them, or explain who they are.
  • When all done you can download a picture of your snowman and writing to share with others.

See below to get your own copy of the template, as well as more detailed directions and a video tutorial on how to do the activity.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The All New Google Sites for Schools - Video Tutorial

Back in June, Google announced that Sites, its web design program, would be getting a long overdue update (see my post from then). Rather than just add some new features, Google chose to rewrite the entire program from the ground up.

As of November, the all new version of Google Sites is now available for everyone to use. So how does it stack up?

In short... Easy, Beautiful, but Basic

  • Easy - By far the new version of Google Sites is the easiest web design program I have ever used (and I even wrote my own web design program about 15 years ago... anyone remember POW-PAK?) Every time I have demonstrated the new sites to a group of teachers, everyone is blown away by how simple and intuitive it is to quickly create a functional website.
  • Beautiful - Although “easy” is important, it would be no good if the resulting site was unattractive. Thankfully the new Google Sites makes it difficult to make an ugly site. The options for themes and layouts keep everything clean, organized, modern, and attractive. The sites even adjust perfectly from desktop to tablet to phone view. Even if design is not your strength, you can make a beautiful site.
  • Basic - So what’s the drawback? At the moment, the biggest weakness with the new Sites is its lack of features. The program is still very new, so its tools and options are limited. If you are used to the Classic Sites, you will quickly notice some things missing such as commenting, a blog page, page-level permissions, revision history, and such. However, I am sure all of these features (and more) will be rolling out over the coming months as Google continues to develop the program. (For a thorough comparison chart of Classic versus New Sites, see this page from Steegle.) Even at its "Basic" level though, the new program can make an excellent site.

Although the new Google Sites is very easy to use, you may still benefit from a tutorial walkthrough of its features. See below for the recorded video of one-hour webinar I conducted where I go through all the steps of creating a classroom website using the new Sites.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Wintertime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings

Magnetic poetry kits have been around since the early 90’s, providing children and adults with inspiration to create poems on refrigerators everywhere.

As fun as those magnetic kits are, they have some limitations. By using a technology option, such as Google Drawings, you get many benefits:

  • No limit on the quantity of words provided. Just copy and paste more of them as needed.
  • Ability to edit the words provided if needed.
  • Ability to add your own words.
  • Easy collaboration with others.
  • Easy to share or download your final creation.
  • No pieces to get lost.
  • It’s free!

As an example of this, I have create a Google Drawings template for wintertime poetry. This includes words related to Christmas, Hanukkah, snow, sledding, and much more. See below to get your free copy of the template to use with your students (or yourself) however you want, as well as directions on how to use it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

YouTube "Read Aloud" Book Videos for Kids

Over the years I have read my four children many, many books, most often at bedtime, and with as many funny voices for the characters as I could provide. As much as I enjoyed the time for family bonding and for helping the kids settle down for the night, research has shown that having stories read to children has many educational benefits as well.

Reading stories out loud to children:

  • Provides them with a model of fluent reading.
  • Allows them to consume content above their reading level (since they can listen at a higher level than they can read).
  • Shows them the connection between the written word and its meaning.
  • Teaches them the narrative structure of a story or book.
  • Helps develop a love of stories, books, and reading that can carry on into the rest of their lives.

Although there is no substitute for reading in person to a child, there are still many benefits from using technology to show videos of people reading stories. In addition to many of the perks mentioned above, videos of books can offer a few novel benefits as well (pun intended).

Video books:

  • Often include music or sound effects to help set the mood.
  • Often include animations, zooming, and panning to bring the book to life and help follow or focus in on the action.
  • Can provide a different take on the reading of the story with the narrator’s voices and inflections.
  • Can be watched independently by the child.
  • Can be sped up or slowed down, paused, and rewound as needed (see link).

See below for many suggestions of YouTube channels and playlists that provide videos of books being read aloud for children.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

3 Google Updates Announced at Education On Air 2016

Christmas came a little early for attendees of Google’s 2016 Education On Air virtual conference.

As part of the opening keynote presentations, Google added in a short section to reveal several new updates for G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education). These updates included:
  1. New ways for students to log into Chromebooks
  2. Parents no longer need Google accounts for Classroom email summaries
  3. Graduating students can move email and Drive files to personal accounts
Education On Air is a (somewhat) annual event where educators from around the world offer free professional development sessions as live video presentations through Google Hangouts. I have been fortunate to present at each EduOnAir since the first one. This year my session was on “Fantastic Feedback Tools for Google Doc” which you can find here: EduOnAir link

You can view all of the recorded sessions from this year at:

As for the three new G Suite for Education features, see below for all the details…