Monday, September 24, 2018

4 Troubleshooting Tips You Can Do

If you use Chromebooks &/or GSuite, you may have noticed a few odd glitches this past week. This has inspired today's post where I want to share a few very easy troubleshooting tips. Teachers CAN do these ... students can do some, too ... and knowing how can empower you to solve a vast majority of your tech glitches. 

In my district, we are 1:1 with Chromebooks in grades 1 -12. I split my time between our two elementaries, grades preK-4. I frequently have students sent to me because something isn't working right on their Chromebook. The most common irritant is that the trackpad isn't working "right". Another common issue is the students' password isn't working. And finally, another common issue is the student can't access the program their teacher is directing them to use.

How do you handle this? What can you do? 
Here are 4 tips that you CAN do ↬

1 ↬ Sign out, then sign back in

This is the very first thing I suggest ... and it will solve about 90% of the troubles. Chrome is a browser that can and will update itself, if you completely close it down and restart it. I know it's far easier to just close your chromebook (or laptop) so you can pick up where you left off, and that's ok for a day or two. 

*** BEST TIP: sign out at the end of the day so that you start fresh tomorrow.

↬ Delete the profile(s) and sign back in

Deleting the student's profile (along with any others on the device) can help solve quite a few problems. Recently, we've had a number of students who are being told their is an issue with their password. There's no rhyme or reason, but we've found deleting their profile and adding it back does the trick! I would try doing this before going through the extra steps of contacting the correct people to do a password reset - that may ultimately need to happen, but if you can troubleshoot and fix it, that is a huge timesaver! Plus, it doesn't hurt anything. All of the student's bookmarks, files, and passwords are in the cloud, so log back in & you are in business.

*** BEST TIP: if you are 1:1, keep to this - assign one device to each student - build ownership. Don't let the students randomly use the devices. It's very difficult to make sense of what is actually going on with a device the more students who use it. If you are NOT 1:1, I still recommend assigning the devices. 

↬ Check your wifi network

Have any of your students told you they can't access a particular site or activity you want them on? Yet, most everyone else is working just fine? While there can be bigger issues here, if a student tells me this, 99% of the time, I can resolve this by ensuring they are on the correct wifi network. Don't ask me how it happens, but our chromebooks have sometimes jumped to our Guest network. We have that one restricted far more than our usual one.

*** BEST TIP: if this happens frequently, TEACH your students - even younger ones - to check their network connection. They can easily switch it back to the proper one.

↬ Clear your cache and cookies

This last tip is best done by the teacher with the younger students. I'd say around 5th grade, a majority of students can handle doing this. Your cache & cookies help make your Chrome browser work faster, but sometimes, it gets a little jumbled and you need to 'reset' it. You can do this by clearing it out and starting over. If you decide to do this, choose the option that indicates "all time". 

To do this, go to your settings. I "cheat" and just type "cache" in the search bar at the top and it will pop you right to where you need to be. You can, but don't have to, clear your browsing history.

*** BEST TIP: ask to watch someone else do this before you tackle it your first time out. For no other reason, messing with settings you aren't super familiar with can lead to mistakes. Better to be sure you know what you are doing than to explain the mistakes you made. 

I hope these 4 tips are helpful. I would encourage you try one of these the next time one of your students brings their device and says it's not working. If you did find this helpful, I encourage you to subscribe via email. I try to post once a week & it can be delivered directly to your inbox. I'd also appreciate it if you passed this along to a friend or colleague.

Do you have additional questions? Please reach out. I'd be happy to help. You can comment below or find me on Twitter @kiefersj or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Sunday, September 16, 2018

5 Chrome Settings You Can Do

Last week, I covered 5 reasons why you should use Chrome. This week, I want to dive further into the settings you can customize in your Chrome profile. This will further enhance your Chrome experience. 

I hope you'll come to love using Chrome just like I did.

Opening Your Settings

Your settings are the key to all things custom for your Chrome account. It is super easy to find. Check out my 1st #EduGIF ! (Thanks, Jake Miller!)

Your settings will open in a new tab and it provides a search bar at the top. Let's go over some simple ways that will make your Chrome account feel like YOU. It's also a great opportunity to make your school Chrome account different from your personal Chrome account.

Before you do anything ... make sure you are in your account. Once you are on the settings page, you should see your account listed. If not, use the sign in option. 

Another note ↬ if you are in a G Suite account for school, your admin does have the ability to restrict or limit several of these options. If you can't adjust in your school account, pop into your personal account and do it. Have fun!

Chrome "Theme"

The first thing you can do to personalize your Chrome account is to add/adjust your "Theme". This is the very first item under "Appearance".

Mine is currently set to "Beach Board". The little square with the arrow pointing out will allow you to navigate to the Chrome Web Store and change your theme. Look around, check them out ... you can always come back and change it later.

As you scroll through them, look closely. Some will only change the image when you open a new tab. Others will even change the look of your tabs! There's no right or wrong ... only personal preference. Try one and see what you think. You can always change it again!

Chrome "Home Button"

The easiest one-click bookmark you can do is to set your "home button" to the location you visit the most often. This option is located just under the Theme option.

Take a few minutes and really give it some thought. First of all, you do not even have to use it, but I find it to be very beneficial. I jump into my Drive all the time. So I've set my home page to my Drive. It's as simple as copy a URL & paste it in. Done. 

The home button is located just to the left of your URL/omnibox. One click and you are home. 

On Start Up, Open Specific Tabs 

When you quit out of Chrome - meaning you click on the word Chrome and choose "Quit Chrome" - you are really doing yourself a huge favor.  When you open it back up, you will be updating Chrome automatically. Additionally, you can set specific pages to open up FOR you each time you open a new session. Here is a quick video I made for my school to demonstrate. 

Bookmarks & Your Bookmarks Bar

Bookmarks are a great thing ... as long as you keep them organized. Otherwise, they are just a jumble mess of links that have no meaning for you. In your settings, you will only need to turn "Show Bookmarks Bar" on in order to work with it. There is a separate location for getting your hands dirty with the organization of your bookmarks. You can find it directly below the "Show home button" option.

The quickest and easiest way to bookmark a site, is to find and click on the star in the far right of your URL/omnibox. If the star is blue, you've bookmarked it. The opposite holds true, that if you NO LONGER want the bookmark, click the blue start so it turns back white, you will have UN-bookmarked it.

Making the Most of Your Bookmarks Bar: The Icon
This next part is possibly my FAVORITE thing about bookmarks! And one of my previous students taught me how to do this. I'm a BIG visual person. Images and color really hold my attention. I associate many things with images and/or color. I can save a LOT of space on my bookmarks bar if I keep JUST the icon! Yes! You can too!!! Every tiny bit of real estate is valuable to me.

(I'm sorry this isn't the best GIF ... I'm new at this & I will get better. When I do, I'll update it here.)

Making the Most of Your Bookmarks Bar: The Folder
This is for those of you who have tons and tons of bookmarks. Just like in Drive, you can make a folder structure. This will allow you to have an entire groups of bookmarks on your bookmarks bar. [Insert happy dance!]

This feature is quickly accessed by right-clicking on the bookmarks bar, or holding the control key and clicking on the gray space of your bookmarks bar. Or, click on the 'world's skinniest snowman' in the top right corner, hover over Bookmarks, then select Bookmarks manager. This is the location to create your structure. Mine is a close replication of My Drive. I like to have things live in large topics, and further breaking them down inside. 

Making the Most of Your Bookmarks Bar: Rearranging
You can rearrange your bookmarks, and it doesn't have to be any more complicated than simply dragging and dropping. Click on one of your current bookmarks and, while holding on to it, drag it to where you'd like it to be on your bookmarks bar, and let go. I place my most important, my most frequently visited bookmarks to the far left. These also happen to be my icon only bookmarks.

Your Profile Image/Icon/Picture

When you start using a Google account, you will find your profile "image" is simply the 1st letter of your name. This is a fun step to take to make your account really feel like "you". And if you have more than one account, this is a super easy way to help you see which account you are working in. Probably the easiest way to do this is to go to My Drive and find your icon in the upper right corner. Click on it, and you should get a screen that looks like the image to the right. Click on the word Change and a new screen will give you the ability to upload or select an image of yourself.

Each one of these settings has allowed me to make my Chrome so much more "me". As you grow more comfortable with Chrome, feel free to scroll through your settings and see what else you can customize. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how each of these can make your time online a little easier.

Do you have additional questions? Please reach out. I'd be happy to help. You can comment below or find me on Twitter @kiefersj or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Monday, September 10, 2018

#PodPeeks: Well PlayED podcasts

I've been hooked on the podcast "Well PlayED" by Michael Matera. His focus is gaming in the classroom, but really it's SOOO much more! I see his focus as just good, solid teaching. He and his interviewees spend plenty of time reflecting on their time as a student as well as a teacher. 

I encourage you to not only tune in (I'll highlight some episodes below) but subscribe so you can continue your own journey. Here are highlights from 4 of his episodes. If you have even the slightest interest in gaming in your class, this is a MUST LISTEN!

Episode 3: Diving Deep Into Content

Michael talks with Adam Bold (@MrBold05).

The big takeaway I get from this is how Adam changed his learning targets into "mission targets" for his students. His classroom is designed around the theme of being spies who are trying to recover lost history and work for an agency. They use various sources to do their research.

Michael shares a quote at the end which I love ... 
"Play is the highest form of research." ~ Albert Einstein.

Episode 7: Quests for knowledge

Michael talks with Tisha Richmond (@tishrich) about game mechanics. Their focus is "quests". They talk about them as mini adventures for students to go above and beyond. I love it. We all want our students to do this, but most won't without some kind of incentive, some kind of reason. Here are a few things they shared about quests in their classes:
  • based on content's essential questions
  • don't share the quests all at the same time - spread them out
  • should be optional 
  • do not attach to student grades
  • only allow them for a defined amount of time
  • keep them open-ended, fairly unstructured

Episode 53: Homage to the greatest game ever!

Michael discusses the game of Zelda with John Meehan (@MeehanEDU).

I'm not a fan of Zelda (nope, I've never even played it), but John shared 3 questions that I think are super important to keep in mind when teaching, and not just with games: 
  1. What is it teaching me?
  2. What is it rewarding me with?
  3. What is it encouraging me to do?
... "do things that make you better/stronger than you were before" ...

Episode 57: Square One - Getting Started in Gamification

Michael interviews Chris Hesselbein (@ChrisHesselbein). 

A few thoughts from this episode:
  • games need identity, challenge, and feedback
  • keep in mind how you "feel" playing the game
  • story problems in math is a great 1st step into gaming
  • do NOT try to gamify your entire class - pick one piece
"Gamification is design that places most emphasis on the human motivation in the process. In essence, it's human focused design."

~Yu-kai Chou

About the author: Michael Matera (@mrmatera)

I hope you find value in this podcast. As always, if you have any questions, reach out below or find me on Twitter @kiefersj or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Sunday, September 9, 2018

5 Chrome Tips You Can (& Should) Do

A lot of my time is spent on the computer. Learning, creating, troubleshooting, corresponding, etc. With the rare exception, I use Chrome. I use my Chrome account (aka Google) to allow for max productivity since I work in a GSuite school district and have carried that over into my personal life.

Let's start with answering the question, "What is Chrome?" Chrome is a web browser. Its use will provide many benefits. Today, let's look at 5 of them.

1. Chrome is NOT device specific.

By this I mean it will work on ALL devices! It will work on desktops, tablets, chromebooks, laptops, phones, iPods, etc. Chances are, if you can access the internet, you can download Chrome to your device. This will provide benefits to your sanity that I will explain below.

2. Chrome is NOT platform specific.

This means you can use Chrome whether you are a "Mac person" or a "PC person" or if you are a student who has been given a Chromebook. And with very few exceptions, you'll see it works similarly if you move between these platforms. 

3. Chrome contains ALL of your Google account.

What do you use in Google? Drive? Docs, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, Calendars? Classroom? Google Sites? Blogger? Google Keep? More? All of the above? Great! They are all in Chrome! 

Hands down, this is what turned me into a Chrome & Google user. I learned I can work on documents at school and go home and pick it up right where I left off ... WITHOUT needing to email it or save it to jump drive. Mind-blowing! The cloud was, and still IS a sanity-saver. I no longer worry if I am using the most up-to-date version.

All of this was before I learned about the collaborative and sharing features. When you learn how to share files and folders and work collaboratively with others, you will wonder why you didn't do this before. And in the education world, this becomes an invaluable tool assisting you in creating activities for your students that move them beyond word the basics. 

4. Chrome will sync across your devices.

Log into Chrome on one device, then log in on another. You will see everything syncs! Passwords, bookmarks, history ... this becomes INVALUABLE. This is the second reason Chrome & Google won me over years ago.

I had a desktop at school. I had a desktop at home. All I had to do was log into my Chrome account in both places and I was in business.

I have a smartphone - I logged in on it and BOOM! There it all is!

When our district went 1:1 and I received a teacher Chromebook, I logged in and, to my delight, there was all my "stuff"! Discovering and now trusting that my passwords and bookmarks are synced has become such a relief. I no longer feel tied down. If I changed my password to a program on one device, it syncs across all my other devices.

When I share the benefits of Chrome with others, I explain it like this ... as long as you are logged into your Chrome account, your device can be run over by a semi-truck BUT you won't lose anything. Log in on your new device and it's all there. (I'm not suggesting being careless, but hey, things happen.)

OR ... here is another common problem - your battery dies and you don't have your charger. Someone offers for you to use their device. Not to worry, log in to Chrome and it's all there. (Don't forget to log out and thank them.) This greatly assisted me a couple years back while on our 8th grade Washington, DC trip. I was able to use a computer at our dinner location to send out a very important piece of information.

You will save yourself time, energy, and frustration.

Have I convinced you yet?

5. Chrome allows for separation of accounts.

As I mentioned earlier, I first used Chrome and Google years ago at school. Now I use it at home, too. I try hard to keep these "pieces" of my life separate. I consider these my work and my personal "lives".

I use a laptop day-to-day. On my laptop, Chrome provides the ability to add multiple "people". This makes it SUPER easy to navigate between my "school life" and my "personal life" and my "Google Trainer life". This keeps passwords and bookmarks separate, too.

It also prevents account "contamination". Keeping things separate helps with organization. This pays off over time. You can see the option to add additional people in the image to the left.

Chromebooks provide the same ability, but in a slightly different way. You can only be "in" one profile at a time. 

In order to switch accounts, you would need to log out of your current one, and log back in to a different account. I used a Chromebook for about a year and a half and I found there was very little I couldn't do on it.

***If you are on a school issued device, please also be aware your Google Admin can enable (or disable) certain abilities on your Chromebook.***

Bonus: Saving!

As a teacher, one of the toughest parts about technology in the classroom was saving. How-to, where-to, when-to ... Google has you covered.

Chrome contains your Google Drive. Drive is one-stop place for all your Google files. And Google apps -Docs, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, Slides, and more- save automatically. Such relief! Power goes out? Not to worry ... it's saved. Battery dies? Not to worry ... it's saved. Accidentally close the wrong tab(s) out when browsing on Chrome? Not to worry ... it's in your history - which syncs across devices. 

Oh, and as a teacher, you can see student's browsing history (just like you can see your own) AND the version history of a document. But THAT is a topic for another blog. 

Join me next week when I'll share some tips/tricks to make your Chrome experience even better! 

Do you have additional questions? Please reach out. I'd be happy to help. You can comment below or find me on Twitter @kiefersj or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Monday, September 3, 2018

Google Classroom You Can Do - Part 3: 5 Ways to Go Beyond the Basics

Welcome to the 3rd, and final, segment in my series about the *new* Google Classroom, with a *bonus* post devoted to how you can learn more about the recent updates.

If you want to start from the beginning, check out my previous posts:

Once you have your Classroom up and running, you might want to start thinking about what's next. It's one thing to have a digital classroom - it's great! But did you know you can do even more? That's right ... some of these are about going beyond IN with your class and some are about going beyond OUTside of your class.

Be brave. Try at least one of the following in the next week or so ... then challenge yourself to try out each of them. They all provide a new tool with added benefits to your class.

Let's jump in.

↬ Share to Classroom extension

This is an EASY one. Extensions provide additional functionality on your Chrome browser and this one is no different. This extension will allow you to literally "push" a website to the students in a Google Classroom you select. Select a class, "push" the site to your students, and within a handful of seconds, the students devices will change.

Imagine the benefits of using this with young students! On days where you don't want to pre-post a link in Google Classroom, or you come across a site on a whim ... this can be extremely helpful. This can be a great time saver, as well. 

You can use this extension to also add the site to an announcement, assignment, or question in a specific Classroom, too. An added bonus is your students can push sites back to you, too, but you choose to accept them or not. I can see doing research with older students, one finding something to share, this tool can help your quickly share out. 

If you only try one of these, please try this one! Teachers I've shown this to swear it's a game-changer ... and it's easy.

To read more, check out Google Classroom's support page.

↬ Using private comments for feedback

I attended a workshop hosted by Alice Keeler, and one of the best tips she shared was how to share private feedback with student by using the private comments. No need to look up contact - no writing emails - easy to track who you've responded to.