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 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.

Windows 10 is Here!

After several months of hype, Windows 10 arrives tomorrow.  It is a free download for anyone currently using windows 7 or 8.  All of the reviews look positive, although early adoption does come with a risk, since there are such limited track records.  I have seen it in beta and it does look promising.  They have restored some things from previous versions and have moved away from the tiled look.  It is supposed to be more “Siri” like with its intuitive interface (Cortana).  Internet Explorer is gone, replaced by a new browser called Edge.  While windows 10 does seem geared more for a touch-screen laptop.  I am planning on downloading and installing it on my desktop at the office.  Unfortunately, it is a busy time with the start of school looming, and I will probably have to wait a few days / weeks.  Here is a link to an article from “MakeUseOf” detailing steps in the process.  Here is another good review from David Pierce at Wired magazine, saying YES! to the question of “should you download windows 10?”

Quick disclaimer – don’t look for windows 10 happening anytime soon around the school district.  We are generally not early adopters.  We want the program to have a strong track record, run smoothly, have all the needed drivers and clients available for all of our products, etc.  Time will tell, but many think this is a strong showing from Microsoft and has been a long time coming.

Hidden Chrome Features

Chrome is my browser of choice these days.  It plays nicely with Google, where i live much of my day.  I like all the cool extensions, although I will admit to not having time to experiment very much.  I came across an article by Evan Dashevsky of PC Magazine called 19 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier.  It was republished from an article written last May, but I think it is still pertinent.  When I browse a slide show like this, I go into thinking I might glean one or two usable tricks.  I actually found several shortcuts that I was not aware of or didn’t remember.  Many are keystroke combinations or omnibox feature reminders (such as doing math calculations directly in the search box).  Here is a good example that I will put into use immediately… have you ever closed a tab in chrome only to wish you had not?  Simply hold the control – shift – T and your browser will reopen the last window in browser history.  You can repeat the process over and over to toggle back through history with a new window opening each time.  Give the slide show a quick look and see if you can gain a few Chrome tricks that might help you.

Stop Annoying Web Ads

I am a baseball fan, getting my daily Royals / Cards updates online from the KC Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  One of the things I have noticed this year – and have just “accepted” – is the prevalence of ads that automatically start to play when you open some webpages.  Then I read this post today from one of my favorite blogs, the Google Gooru, about how to turn off auto play on those ads in 5 easy steps.  It is a very simple process in Chrome (sorry firefox and ie users – I only use Chrome).

  1. Open your chrome browser and go to the settings menu in the upper right.
  2. Click “Show advanced settings” at the bottom.
  3. Scroll down to the Privacy heading and click on the “Content Settings…” button.
  4. Scroll down to Plug-ins and move the radio button from “run automatically” to “click to play.”
  5. Click “Done” and then close the settings page.

That is it!  It will make some ads turn to gray on some pages and none of the ads will play automatically.  Now, if you decide that on a certain site, the ads are useful and an important part of the page, there is an easy fix.  Just go to that page, click on the red X at the right end of the address bar, and select “always allow plugins…”  Pretty simple right?

Thanks Google Gooru for this handy chrome tip!

QR Codes in the Classroom

I had a revelation the other day as I was thinking about the nearly 250 ipads we rolled out for Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade classrooms.  These students are going to be non-readers or early-readers and all of them are likely to have difficulty typing in a web address.  Then I saw a post about QR codes and thought they would be perfect in an elementary classroom.  The process is very simple and works on any ipad 2, the 3rd generation ipads, or even the new ipad-mini’s (first gen ipads do not have cameras).  Students would use the QR code to get to any site on the web without having to type or read anything.

You can use a free site like and create free QR codes.  Just type the complete web address in the text box and the code is created.  From there, you can download the codes as .png files, print them out, and hang them around the room.  The ipads would need a free barcode / QR scanner  app – the one I use is called shopsavvy.  The student would simply open the app and view the QR code in the scanning window.  The Ipad will automatically open the browser and take you to the location.

I think if I had a primary classroom with access to tablets or mobile devices, then I would teach the students how to scan a QR code.  They never expire if you download and save them.  They are hard-coded to that address and will always work unless something in the address changes.  Then you simply create a new one.  How simple is that!

I-tunes accounts w/o Credit Card

If you have tried to setup an itunes account for yourself or one of your kids recently, you probably just accepted that you needed to put in your credit card information or you had to purchase a prepaid i-tunes card.  What else can you think when you setup an account and don’t appear to have any other options.  I don’t like the thought of putting my credit card information on my children’s itunes accounts.  Well, there is a work around.  Give this a try…

  • Make sure you are not logged into any itunes account on the apple device.  
  • Go into the i-tunes store and select a free app that you would like to install. 
  • I-tunes will prompt you to login to an i-tunes account.
  • Choose to create a new itunes account.
  • Fill out the information and “agree” to the default screens.
  • When you get to the “provide payment information” page, select none.
If you are helping your middle school student or high school student setup their itunes account, this gives you a little peace of mind about not having to put your personal information / credit card information out there.