Friday, November 8, 2013

2013 miGoogle Conference Wrap Up

On November 4-5, 2013, Brighton High School hosted the 2013 Michigan Google Education conference. I was honored to plan and coordinate this conference and am thrilled with the feedback and energy that it has generated!

For the second year in a row the conference sold out, doubling in size to over 600 in attendance. This year a "pre-conference" day was added featuring full and half day breakout sessions to provide an opportunity to go deeper with various Google tools and teaching styles. Sessions on project based learning, the flipped classroom, Google Drive, Chromebooks, and more were offered. Every session was filled.

The best part of the miGoogle conference is that it is a Michigan conference. Planned by Michigan organizations, sessions led by Michigan teachers, and even many of the sponsors are Michigan based companies. It's a great time to be in Michigan!

I had the opportunity to delivery the keynote address to open day 2 of the conference and made a case that we, as classroom teachers, should be training "dot connectors" instead of encouraging students to be "dot collectors." My slide-deck and a [partial] recording of my talk can be accessed here.

Five sessions were featured throughout the day. These sessions showcase some of Michigan's best presenters and hottest Google topics. You can watch recordings of these sessions here.

If you weren't able to make it to the conference this year, you can still benefit from the learning by checking out the resources posted on these session pages. You can also look at the #migoogle hashtag for lots of links

Didn't make it to miGoogle13? Didn't even know about it? Follow the conference on Google+ or Facebook to receive updates about next year's conference. Or fill out this form to be notified when the call for speakers and registration for miGoogle 2014 opens!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5 Chrome Settings that will Make Teachers Smile

Google Chrome has been my browser of choice since it was launched in 2008. Chrome redefined the browsing experience for users and continues to do so today. Many new features in Explorer, Safari, and Firefox are responses to Google Chrome.

Chrome is an awesome browser for the classroom. Here are my five favorite "tricks" for getting more out of Chrome. These tips do not require any special plugins, extensions, or applications. They are available for anyone running Chrome OS or the Chrome browser for Windows or Mac. 

To enable any of these features, click on the "hamburger" (the three horizontal lines in the top right corner of your Chrome browser window) and follow the instructions.

1. Launch Tabs on Startup
Most of us spend the majority of our time on the Internet on the same 3-5 websites. For me, it's Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar - my productivity essentials.

You can ask Google chrome to automatically load your favorite websites each time you start Chrome. No need to manually visit these pages. Open Chrome and you're ready to go!

To enable this feature: Settings > Show Advanced Settings > On Startup

Tip 1: Don't auto-load too many pages! I recommend you keep it at three or less!

Tip 2: If you use Chromebooks in your classroom with students, you can set which pages load when a student logs on to their Chromebook. This feature is controlled from within the Google Apps dashboard so you'll want to make your IT director a pan of brownies and ask him to turn it on.

2. Bookmark Sync
Teacher love bookmarking pages. Now you can synchronize your bookmarks across Chrome! You can use Chrome on your PC, Mac, Chromebook, iPhone or Android tablet. As long as you sign in to chrome, your book marks will be there when you need them!

You must sign in to Chrome to enable this feature: Settings > Sign in to Chrome. Make sure you check the box for "bookmarks". You can adjust your Chrome sync settings at any time by going to Settings > Users > Advance Sync Settings

3. Tab Sync
Have you ever pulled up a web page on your home computer, gone in to the office and wished you could remember the web address of the page back at home? With tab sync, you can view any open tab on any of your devices and open them with a single click. Pull up a map on your laptop, jump in the car and open up the map on your phone!

You must sign in to Chrome to enable this feature: Settings > Sign in to Chrome. Make sure you check the box for "open tabs". You must repeat these steps on every device you wish to use the tab sync feature. 

After enabling tab sync, when you open a new tab in Chrome, you will see an option for "other devices" where all of your open tabs will be displayed. The screen shot below is from an iPhone, showing tabs on several other devices.

4. Zoom
When you are projecting something in class and you want to highlight a specific area of the screen you can use the keyboard shortcut ctrl and + to zoom in. When you are ready to zoom back out, use ctrl and - or ctrl and 0.

Nothing to enable here! Just use ctrl and +/- to zoom in and out! 

5. Settings Search
Do you need to reset your pass-phrase, adjust your trackpad sensitivity or delete an extension? Don't worry about remember where that button is, just search for it! Chrome user settings can be quickly searched. It makes adjusting settings super easy!

Nothing to enable here! Just go into settings and look for the search box! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cleaning Up YouTube for your Classroom

Video is a powerful teaching tool. As the largest online video repository, YouTube is a popular destination for video clips however YouTube is blocked at many schools and teachers are often hesitant to use YouTube because of easy access to inappropriate content and the unpredictability of when inappropriate content can appear. The good news, is that there are ways to safely and effectively use YouTube in your classroom! Here are some tips and suggestions.

Option 1: Don't use YouTube.comInstead of directing students to YouTube where they could potentially get into trouble, embed videos into your class blog or website. Embedding video avoids inappropriate comments and related videos which regularly appear on It will require some additional work on the part of the teacher to find and embed the videos on a class website, but if the videos are good, it's worth the effort! 

Tip: Utilize Playlists
Playlists help you curate content as you find it. Playlists can be easily shared with students or embedded in your blog or web page, like the example below.

Tip: Instructions: How to embed a playlist.

Tip: Disable Related Videos
Google provides users with the option to exclude problematic "related videos" from displaying after a video finishes. Simply check the "do not show related videos" box when sharing a video.

Option 2: Use YouTube for Schools
YouTube for Schools is a special version of YouTube that only allows students to view selected videos. YouTube for schools must be enabled by a school network administrator.

Setting up YouTube for Schools
30 min. overview of YouTube for Schools

Become a Video Curator - Create Your Own YouTube Chanel
Creating your own YouTube channel allows you to upload your own video content, favorite videos and create playlists. These features are helpful and important if you plan on showing video clips in your classroom or embedding clips into your class blog or wiki. 

Examples of Teacher YouTube Channels
Create a Class Chanel
A Class YouTube Chanel can be used to highlight student work. You will need an email address that is NOT currently associated with a YouTube channel in order to setup a class channel. Students LOVE seeing their work online and can easily share their work with others. Creating a class channel avoids the problems that can arise if you ask students to create their own YouTube channel.

Examples of Class YouTube Channels:
Additional Resources: 
  • YouTube for Teachers - A site designed to help teachers learn how to incorporate video effectively into the classroom. 
  • YouTube EDU - Educational content from a variety of content providers such as Khan Academy, Universities, TED, and Discovery Education. Note: the content of Youtube EDU is what students with access to YouTube for Schools will see. 
  • Harnessing the Power of YouTube - A 30 min. presentation by classroom teacher James Sanders on how he has incorporated YouTube into his classroom.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

2013 Michigan Google Education Summit - Consider Yourself Invited!

This year I am proud to once again coordinate the Michigan Google Education Summit (miGoogle) being held at Brighton High School on November 4-5, 2013.

Day one, November 4, features full and half day workshops led by a stellar line-up of educators who I consider to be some of the top technology integrators in the state of Michigan:

For more information on any of the above sessions, click here. 

Day two of the summit, November 5, features a traditional conference format including a keynote and over 50 breakout sessions covering top Google products including Maps, YouTube, Blogger, Drive, Google+, Flubaroo, and much more.

My goal and vision for the miGoogle summit is that it be a place to showcase the tremendous talent in the state of Michigan. Instead of bringing in speakers from around the country, I would love to see local educators share how they have integrated various Google tools and technologies into their classroom in meaningful ways that impact student achievement.

Teachers tend to be a humble group. Many of you are doing amazing things in your classroom but you don't give yourself enough credit! "But everything I do is easy...simple....obvious." Those are common excuses I hear from teachers when I tell them they should present at a conference. You have something to share, something to show! You would be amazed how many other teachers would benefit from learning about your unique lesson or approach to technology! Don't underestimate yourself!

Consider yourself officially invited to lead a 50 min. breakout session at the 2013 miGoogle conference! As a thank you, you will receive complementary admission to the conference, access to the speakers lounge filled with snacks and cool people, and some Google swag!

The call for presenters is open through August 1. Click here to review the details and submit your proposal!  You have something to share!

For those interested in attending the conference, please add you name to this form to be notified as soon as registration officially opens (early July). Conference capacity is 600 and is expected to sell out.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Google Doesn't Care About Grades or Test Scores

In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, the Senior VP of People Operations at Google discussed how Google hires and how they analyze job performance and hiring data. One of the few things that the data has clearly shown is that there is no correlation between job success and GPA: 
Link to Full Article | Click image to enlarge
I have been reminding educators that it is not about what you know, it's about what you can do with what you know. Teaching (and learning) facts will not prepare students for success. Teaching them how to interpret, analyze, and evaluate and apply information will. Google is looking for critical and creative thinkers, not Jeopardy champions.

Thanks to Peter Monnerjahn and Sir Ken Robbinson for tweeting this article.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chrome Trick: Favicon Bookmarks

If you are a fan of bookmarking pages in your web browser, you have probably run into the problem of running out of space on your bookmarks bar. The whole point of bookmarking a page is to get to it quickly. Adding folders and additional layers of organization becomes cumbersome and defeats the purpose of bookmarking in the first place!

There is a simple "trick" that you can use to save space on your bookmark bar, allowing you to maximize the available space for your most visited pages.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Free Plagarism Checker for the Classroom

The internet has given us unlimited knowledge and information at an instance notice. Generally, this is a good thing, but sometimes students get lazy and use the web in ways that are inappropriate in an academic setting -- plagiarizing work from web sources. 

The benefits of the web far outweigh the risk of inappropriate use. As educators we should strive to train our students on acceptable web behavior including the habit of summarizing, quoting, and citing sources. Despite our best efforts, some students choose to bend/break the rules of fair use. 

It is important for educators to be aware of the tools and resources that are available to monitor and deter cheating in the classroom. is a tool that can be used to check written work for plagiarism. It is a very sophisticated and effective web resources that can quickly scan and find portions of a paper/essay that have been copied from the web or another paper. The downside to is its price, which is prohibitive for many individual teachers and many schools. The service also requires a bit of legwork on the part of teachers and students. 

A free, simple, alternative that I have been using for several years is "The Plagiarism Checker" from Paste in a bunch of text from a suspect paper and The Plagiarism Checker will quickly perform a Google search of multiple portions of the submitted text in an effort to match 

The basic service is free to use. A more advanced and accurate checker is available for $8/month. 

I have personally used this tool on student work. Some students were vindicated while others were busted.