Use an App to Help Remember Your Students

I just came across this and it seems like a really good idea.  This article in Edublogs suggests using an app to help you remember your student’s names.  What a cool idea!  They suggest NameShark to remember the names in your group and pronouncenames.com if you want to remember pronunciations.  I think this would work well with any group or organization.  I plan to give it a try the next time I need to memorize a group of new people.  Disclaimer: it does require passing your phone around to the students so it would have to be done with help or at an appropriate age.

Google Classroom Training Center

With the start of school near, many teachers are looking for resources to use with their students.  One popular tech resource is Google Classroom, a free tool included with Google Suite for Education.  Google has put together this new training center for teachers in case they need a little help getting started.    There are some great resources here!

Google is constantly evolving and Google Classroom is as well.  They have put together this lists of 10 improvements in Classroom and Forms.

2017 RCET Conference

Just a reminder to Willard teachers that the RCET conference is coming March 7-8 at MSU. Since Willard is a member district, the conference is free to staff members.  The keynote will be delivered by Kyle Pace , an Instructional Technology Coach from the Kansas City area.  Learn more about Kyle on his blog “Learning is Leading“.  For more information or to register go the RCET-SW website.

Synergyse for Google Apps

Google announced this week that they had acquired a Canada based company called Synergyse.  They specialize in google apps training within your chrome browser.  It is an extension called “Synergyse Training for Google Apps” and is a free download in the Chrome Web Store.  I have been playing with it and while a bit basic, it is a really good concept.  If you are new to Google or still not sure about how some features work, this might be just what you need.  The extension will load and ask for permission to access your information and from that point it will load every time you are logged into Chrome.  It creates an extra icon next to your name icon in the upper right.  If you click on it, you will get a list of help topics for the app you are using.  Help topics are available in Drive, Calendar, Email, Docs, Sheets, etc.  They are generally either slide shows with audio or sometimes just audio.  Very helpful and a good tool for anyone that wants to learn something new – like how to do Google Forms.  Give it a try.

Calendar Within Gmail

Did you know that you can view your gmail calendar right inside your gmail window without having to open / close any additional tabs or sites.  It is done with a “google calendar” gadget.  I came across this a couple of weeks ago and have been piloting it on both my google accounts.  I certainly give it a thumbs up as something that I think is useful and a good fit.  Then I read about it in today’s Google Guru posting, so I thought I would blog about it and point you toward their “how to” video.

It is very easy to setup. Simply click on the little gear icon in the upper right of your gmail page and then down to settings.  Click on the tab labeled “labs” and search for one called google calendar.  Click “enable” and save the changes.  Then go back out to the gmail page.   At the bottom of the left hand column beneath all your folders are 3 small dots.  Click on the dots.  They represent your gadgets that are active.  You can grab the calendar at the bottom and resize it up and down.  As nearly as I can tell, it will only show events for your primary calendar but it still serves its purpose.

 

Fitness Wearables

Like many of you, I have followed the “Internet of Things” evolution over the last few years.  One of the big categories that has emerged from this is the explosion of wearable technology.  As a frequent walker / jogger, I like to track my steps and activities.  I have worn a fitbit device for a few years.  I first wore the fitbit one and then moved on to the fitbit flex.  I was wearing the fitbit flex and a pebble watch last year when Apple released the apple watch.  I wanted to combine the function of the two into a single device.  The apple watch seemed like a good option (although not crazy about the price).  So I swallowed hard and forked out the $350 for the device.  I have been wearing it now for just over 6 months.  I use it for notifications thus replacing the need for the pebble.  I use it for activity tracking so it replaces my fitbit flex.  I am just not “wowed” by the device – for $350 I was hoping for Wow!  It is an impressive device but I think it is still a work in progress.  I am sure many users think it is great.  I am also certain there are features that I have yet to tap.  I am a bit disappointed in the 1 day battery life so therefore no sleep tracking.  The interface to upload any of your data to track activity is just not very good.  I was a bit spoiled by the fitbit tracking and convergence features

Of course, since that time, there have been other devices on the market that do many of the same things.  One that has recently caught my attention is a competitor to the apple watch called the fitbit blaze.  It is set to be released later this year, but appears to do many of things that I want my apple watch to do – tracking, heart rate, messaging – but also has a battery that will last 5 days so it can track sleeping and will sync with your phone GPS for longer runs or rides.  It does not do phone calls, which that apple watch does.  I am sure there are several other differences.  The price point on this device will be around $200 and that will attract some buyers.  I look forward to hearing more about it in the coming weeks as well as other new “wearable” technology that might be coming out.

If you would like to read more about some of the new wearables – many just announced last week at the CES in Las Vegas – follow this link to a PC Magazine article by Timothy Torres.   Hopefully you will find that device that meets your particular habits and needs.

Shameless Google Classroom Plug

The October issue of the Google for Education Newsletter mentioned that Google Apps is now used by 50 million students and teachers around the world.  Even more impressive, in just over a year since it was introduced, Google Classroom is now used by 10 million of those students and teachers.  It is constantly evolving and being improved.  Just recently, they announced that you can attach a google form to your assignments directly in google classroom.  Google will grade the form / test and mark the assignment as completed when it is submitted.  Still not sold?  Take a look here to see some ways that teachers are using google classroom to help them connect with kids.  Oh, and yes, it is free for educators.