Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Penguins & Antarctica You Can Do

I've recently gotten hooked on a new podcast by Matt Miller [you might know him as #JimmyMatt]. This podcast is great because not only does it share amazing tips & ideas, it's done in less than 10 minutes! I listen while I'm packing my lunch in the morning and eating breakfast (it's probably the only time I'm successful in multi-tasking!). I also keep a notepad handy to jot down tips & ideas.

I listened to Episode #23: Introduce your students to penguins & Antarctica this week and was SUPER excited! Genny Kahlweiss was Matt's guest and she shared the website This site is REALLY, REALLY awesome! It's packed with real research and so much more.  

You won't regret checking it out. 

I know of several teachers who study penguins and this would be a perfect addition. There is an education page in this site where you can take your class beyond the 4 walls. The education tab is packed with resources, activities, and projects. 

You can do anything from:
  • sending a flag to the researchers - who will fly it & send it back! (probably my personal FAV!)
  • to helping count Weddell seals
  • checking out the baby chicks as they nest (from Nov-Jan)
  • learning about adaptations
  • and more!

It's a great addition to any classroom!

You can find the podcast on any of the numerous podcasting apps as well as at

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

4 Top Chrome Extensions You Can ... and should ... Do

Extensions are "small software programs that customize the browsing experience" according to this article from Google. Basically this means it provides you with the ability to amp up your web experience for a lot of different reasons. 

To me, extensions are really awesome tools that allow you to do things quickly and easily. They allow for specific actions to happen with very little effort on your part. Below are some of my favorites. 

*** Note: you might have to ask your Google Administrator to enable these extensions ***

**Updated - Feb 20, 2023 **

CraftyText won't sound like a powerful extension, but it truly is! How many times to you need to (or want to) display a shortened URL, or short phrase, or specific wording. Game codes or codes to join digital classes are other popular ways I have used this extension.

Simply click on this extension, and type in your code, phrase, or link, and then click enter. Instantly it overtakes your screen in large letters making it super easy to see when projecting. Love, love, love this when I'm projecting. I hated repeating myself, and to just pop it up on the screen made it super easy! When you are done, click the extension and it goes away. Poof!

Screencastify is probably the easiest Screencasting tool I've come across - especially if you are wanting to do this with students. Screencastify is especially awesome because you can automatically save to your Google Drive! WOW! From there, you can share the same way you do with other Google Apps and files. 

This is a very easy way for teachers to give a very personal bit of feedback on digital student work. Rather than typing your feedback - which students might not even read - record yourself as you grade it. How powerful can this feedback be? To actually see AND hear the teacher. 

***NOTE*** Screencastify is no longer a fully free tool. It's still awesome & I use it regularly, but there are limits to what you and your students can do with the free version.

The best way to see this in action is to go to the Video Tutorial page for Screencastify.

Cite This For Me:
Cite This For Me was introduced to my by the 8th grade ELA teacher on my team a couple years back. She made a comment about how easy citations were and I was kind of shocked. She said "Yes, we just use this extension." WOW! Mind blown! Once installed, click the extension and it gives you the CHOICE between the four top citations styles: APA, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA.

All I can say is where was this when I was a kid?? 

Now, I know some of you are cringing ... is this something we no longer need to teach? While I'm not the be-all-end-all for academic decision making, I say let's focus more on teaching our students TO cite their sources instead of nit-picking the mechanics of the citations. Isn't that to more important concept? If it's not your work, giving credit to the creator is important. With this extension, there is absolutely no reason your students (or YOU!) don't give credit where credit its due ... and you can choose between which of the 4 styles you like best!

Read Aloud:

I am updating my suggested extension for a read aloud tool to Read Aloud. It works great for our students at school and it provides the support many of our students need. You can select specific text (a word, phrase, paragraph, or more) and then click on the the extension to hear it read out loud. It's easy to use and reliable. Give it a go today!

Do you have a favorite that I don't have on this list? I'd be interested to know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

#OneNewThing - April 9, 2018

I'm a very visual person and I've been working on making the other pages of my blog more visually appealing and easy to read. This week, after reading Kasey Bell's blog "16 Curation Tools for Teachers & Students", I decided to try out one that I've not seen much. 

I tried out Pearltrees. I think I like it! Check out my Professional Learning page ... I embedded TWO Pearltrees! One is for the people I follow and if you scroll down, you will see a smaller one where I've linked free or low-cost PD links. 

I think I really like it! ... for now, at least ...👍

Saturday, April 7, 2018

#OneNewThing - April 7, 2018

If you haven't seen this, check out Meagan Kelly's blog "#OneNewThing: A Blogging Challenge" I highly suggest you take a second to check it out. And then join the fun! 

Here's my first one ...

This week, I accomplished something that I've wanted for awhile. I FINALLY set up a Google Trainer Domain!  Whew! I'd be collecting thoughts and helps for awhile and telling myself I'll do it. A HUGE SHOUT OUT goes to Louis Shanafelt [@LouisShanafelt] for his step-by-step videos. I couldn't have done it without them!

What will YOU challenge yourself to do new this week?

Is Learning Fun? Should Learning be Fun?

Let me start off by saying this has been a L O N G week! I'm going to veer off my typically blog style today. My blogs are always inspired from something ... this week my inspiration came from two very different places but dealt with the same mindset.

The 1st was a very unexpected TwitterChat early Easter Sunday morning. I saw this Tweet by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19).

This question caught my eye on the TwitterChat for #HackLearning. The idea of making learning fun intrigues me. 

It's not a bad idea, right? Learning CAN be fun! But ... is it always fun? Should it always be fun? What if it's NOT fun? Do we not do it? Do we want our students to shy away from learning if it's NOT fun, even if we know down the road it very well could lead to fun?

I'll come back to this ... I said I had two sources of inspiration.

The other inspiration came from my oldest daughter. She enjoys playing basketball so my husband found a skills camp on Monday nights for her. He had to work late this week, so I found myself driving her there. Challenge? Getting her actually IN the car to GO! I was shocked at her adamant refusal to going. She angrily told me it was "not fun" and "too hard" and she wasn't going. (I was shocked because she had gone the week before and had NOT expressed this emotion.

Let's discuss Mark's Tweet a little more.

As teachers, do we strive to make learning fun everyday? As parents, should we have our kids do just what is fun and easy? I'll be honest ... I have a hard time separating my teacher brain from my mom brain and vice versa. 

Mark responded:

I 100% see his point. I happen to love my job, too! BUT ... I also know that my job isn't always easy and if I chose to not do the pieces that I find, well, not fun, I highly doubt I'd still be employed. So I responded, "I didn't mean you can't love it ... I love my work too, but sometimes it's just plain HARD --- there is JOY in accomplishing something HARD."

When I think back to my own teachers, I do remember the "fun" ones. And usually, I remember their class as "easy". BUT ... I treasure the teachers who challenged me. The teachers who pushed me but encouraged me at the same time. 

I don't often look back say, "Man! I'm so glad I had fun in Mr. So-and-so's class." On the other hand, I DO look back and say, "Thank you, Mrs. Price for allowing us to take control of our math class and push ourselves at our own pace." "Thank you, Mr. Sisson for bringing history to life and letting us recreate things like the court case from the Boston Massacre." "Thank you, Mr. Hemmert, for letting me pick the topic and presentation for my senior English essay." All of these were hard, but I learned so much. None of them were easy - but I can also say, in the end, they were fun. Fun because I was invested and fun because the teachers made the activity worthwhile. But NOT fun at the beginning.

How about my daughter?

Yes, it's sports. Yes, it's extra. No, she truly doesn't HAVE to do it. However ... she did agree to this skills camp. I am the kind of mom who wants the best for her girls (who doesn't?). I want my girls to push themselves to be the best version of themselves they can be. I also know that sometimes in life, things are TOUGH. So when I hear them or see them shying away from something because of the challenge, I know that sometimes, I have to believe in them FOR them and be their support until they can do it on their own. I also know there is plenty in life that isn't fun, but must be done --- grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, etc? Where would I be if my husband & I didn't do these because we don't find them fun? 

Let's put these two pieces together. 

I have always strived to be the teacher who wants the best for my students. I want to be their champion, their challenger, their supporter, their advisor, their guide, their ... whatever. Just as I want to do that for my students, I want to do that for my daughters. I appreciate all Mark does and I know he's got the right idea. His question just really got me thinking about learning & fun. Learning can be fun. Learning should be fun. 


Learning isn't always and we can't always make it fun. And we shouldn't encourage our students to think it always is. I was honest with my students when we attempted something I knew was tough. I still do. I pump them up. I remind them that we are up for the challenge. I remind them we are ready and we can do it. But I am honest with them. And if we fail, I'm right there to support them in getting it back together.

And, I do the same with my daughters. My oldest was helping me put together her new bed, and it was hard! The pieces didn't go together smoothly. We had to work at it. She did NOT find it fun, but the end result is a bed she really likes! My youngest was learning to read this year, and it took time and practice and patience. She didn't get it right away. She was frustrated, but now that she's put in that work and she CAN read, MAN! Does she enjoy it!

So - here's what I believe. Learning can be fun. Learning can be hard. Learning can be a process that takes hard work. Please make sure you have your students working hard just as much as they are having fun.
Brainy Quotes                     KZEE Quotes