Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chrome: A Better Browser


When I started my classes at UNI we made a pact to use Chrome as our default web browser. At the time I thought that this was just insane. I used Google for just about everything, but never really got into Chrome. Typically, I used Safari or sometimes Firefox. I was not a Chrome fan, and did not see any advantage to using it over Safari. One thing, well maybe two things, changed my mind:


Google Chrome has a lot of extensions that you can download and use to help make ordinary tasks more efficient and a lot more fun. The Chrome Web Store is like that of the Apple App store, yet very different. I suggest that before you add an extension that you read the reviews and the extension capability pages very carefully. 

It took going to the Midwest Google Summit in Lincoln, Nebraska and a lady by the name of Stacy Behmer from AEA 267 to change my views on Chrome. I sat in her class called "60 Chrome Extensions in 60 Minutes."Yes, she showed 60 different programs to us in that one small hour. I don't think she had any time to hardly breathe, it was that intense. 

Here is the link to her slide show.  I am going to highlight some of the Chrome extensions and help categorize them in the next few posts on this blog. 

Let's look at four extensions that can help students that may have literacy challenges. 

1.) VOICE SEARCH The Internet user can use their voice to search the web rather than type in the   keywords into the search bar. You will need microphone access to use this extension. 

2.) SELECT AND SPEAK Select and Speak will read parts of a website to the user. You first 
highlight the text that you want read, then click the extension icon to hear the text. I suggest that you experiment with the extension's voice and speed. The default sounds like a robot, but if you slow him or her down, it is much clearer to understand. 

3.) ANNOUNCIFY A step above SELECT AND SPEAK, this extension reads a page paragraph by paragraph. It also blurs out the paragraphs not being read, so the user doesn't question where the reader is at. 

4.) TLDR Too Long Didn't Read is a great app that shortens or summarizes longer pages of content. It pulls out the key facts and gives the user the option to see the summary, a shortened version of the text, or a longer summary of the text. It does all of this without leaving the page. Here is a video to explain the extension further:
THE NUMBER ONE THING YOU NEED TO REMEMBER IS THIS….. If you have a lot of extensions open at once it will slow down your computer's processing speed. Make sure you close them out when not in use. In a later post I will help you organize your extensions and help you put them in one place for easy access. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Letter to Teachers

Dear IHS Colleagues,

            I am super excited to start working as the technology instructional coach at IHS!  Over the past several weeks I have traveled to multiple states to learn about technology and leadership. My first trip was to UNI for my masters program. I participated in an intense weeklong technology integration boot camp. We covered new learning from 8-5 each day and worked on a group project well until midnight each night. (I will attach a link to our project at the bottom of this letter.)

            Last week, I went to Lincoln, NE to the Midwest Google Summit. I can honestly say that Google has more programs for education than I ever dreamed of, and more and more are coming all the time. Google plans on unveiling their LMS (Learning Management System) in the coming months. Over the two days in Lincoln, I also started the work toward my Google Certified Educator and Google Certified Trainer certificates. In the next 90 days I will be completing the coursework and taking the exams. Hopefully, I will be invited to Mountain View, CA next summer to complete the final requirements of a GCT.

            I also went to Ankeny to an Iowa leadership conference, and on Sunday I leave for Lawrence, KS to participate in another leadership conference. I look forward to getting the instructional coaching training needed to be an effective addition to the IHS staff. Needless to say, it has been a wild summer of learning!

            For those of you that don’t know me, I have been in the ICSD for nine years. I started subbing at IHS and got my first contracted position at Irving. Before that, I taught at PCM as a K-8 GT instructor and a 7th grade language arts instructor. I spent three years prior to that as a special education associate, while I completed my teaching degree from Buena Vista University.

            My husband, Jamie, is a career firefighter for the City of Des Moines and serves our community on IFD as well. We have adopted two kids from South Korea. Teegan is entering 3rd grade at Irving. He loves reading and drawing. Adelyn will be entering preschool this year. She is our little diva and certainly keeps us on our toes. We also have a golden-doodle named Doug. My parents are retiring from a ministry in Baxter, IA this summer and are moving back to our hometown of Lake City, IA. I’m sure they will be taking quite a few trips to Indianola this year.

            Last week I moved into room 323 on Abbey Road. I have tables set up where we can meet when I hold small group training sessions. I can also come to your room when needed this year.

            Currently, I am preparing for our pre-service days and setting up our Apple training for the DLE. The training will occur over two consecutive days. Right now we are leaning toward November. A benefit to this is that you can get some experience with the machines, before we tackle any new learning. The classes being offered are “Reaching All Learners” and “Challenge-Based Learning.” The classes will focus on the Apple products, tips and tricks. We need 20 teachers to come to this training. It will be an EXCELLENT opportunity to learn more about our DLE capabilities. Apple doesn’t disappoint, and they have excellent trainers who will come out to teach us. Please let me know ASAP if you plan on attending or think you will.  I will be the organizer of this event. When we get the dates set I will send you more information.

            To conclude I want to say how honored and excited I am to be on the IHS staff this year. You all have so many talents and are committed to our community’s youth. I admire the work that you do, and will continue to do, in order for the DLE to be successful. I want to emphasize that I am here for you for whatever you are going to need. We are going to have bumps along the way, and not every moment will be the best, but the end result is that we will send these kids out into the career and college worlds with rich technology experiences. It will take many months for all of us to shift our teaching and classroom learning to be completely digital. We know this, and I plan on doing everything I can to support you along this journey.

            If you need anything before school starts or after, don’t hesitate to contact me. No question is too big or too little.