A Chromebook 101 for Teachers: What’s All the Fuss About?


Considering Chromebooks? You’re not the only one! The Chromebook in Education revolution is finding its way into more and more schools across the country.  So, in my third presentation at the Iowa Mini Google Summit I decided to do a session that outlined the basic pros and cons of Chromebooks in schools in order to help answer any lingering questions.

People have strong opinions on Chromebooks. Some dismiss them as nothing more than a browser, others herald it as a fast, low cost, easy to manage device of the future. But I think it is important we don’t get too bogged down with pitting one device against another (as I often see in Chromebook vs iPad Twitter or blog posts).

The important thing, with any device that a school chooses, is whether or not it will support and enhance student learning in your school district? Will it do what you want your students to do on it? Can it help move teacher instruction beyond its current limits? In the right environment, and with good professional development, Chromebooks are an awesome device for schools, of that I have no doubt. But there are a number of other devices that can be just as good, or better, given the climate and circumstances of your school district.

So, feel free to take a look at the slideshow below, and the resources that it has for using Chromebooks in education. If you have any questions, feel free to add them to the comments below and I will do my best to answer them in any way I can.

Pimp My Site: Customization Options for Google Sites


Recently, I shared the first of my three presentations at the Iowa Mini Google Summit – Editing Video Online with the YouTube Editor. Today, I am sharing the second – Pimp My Site: Customization Options for Google Sites. It’s an exploration of the ways in which you can make a Google Site easier on the eye, and less like a stock Google Site.

I have grown to love Google Sites. They are easy for students and teachers to build and maintain, but they are also easy to tweak…if you know where to look. They don’t have to look like a stock Google Site if you learn a few simple tricks. It takes a little bit of time to apply all these tweaks, but once you start using them, you will get faster, and you will get more adventurous with ideas of your own.

One of my favorite things to do when I find a truly awesome Google Site is to try and backwards engineer it. How did they do that header? How did they make the navigation so elegant? How can I get a background like that? I would encourage you to do just that. At the same conference, one of my colleagues made a one page Google Site for their session handout. He stripped out all navigation, and had a simple two color palette. It was clean, simple and elegant. I love coming across new ways of doing things, and for me this was a great example of that.

So, take a look at the slideshow below and see if you can apply any of these tips to your own Google Site. Together we can make the web more beautiful! 🙂

Editing Online Video with the YouTube Editor


Have you used the YouTube video editor before? Did you even know that there was a YouTube video editor? At a recent Google Mini Summit, I gave a presentation to teachers on how to use the YouTube video editor, and many were surprised at just how much you could do with it.

When it first came out, it was kind of limited, but it is improving at a steady pace, and you can already do a lot of very useful editing inside YouTube itself. Joining clips, trimming clips and splitting clips is just the beginning, especially when you can add up to 50 videos and 500 pictures.

Transitions add style to your videos and make them look less like an amateur, while text overlays can be added to a number of areas on your video to help tell your story. Videos and pictures can have the brightness and contrast adjusted, with black and white, slow motion or a number of other Instagram-style video filters only a click away.

Audio options include the ability to adjust your clip volume, and access to a vast YouTube library of tunes that can be added to your videos without worries about copyright or anything else.  All of this saves automatically, even if you close your browser and come back to it the next day.

So, if you are interested in checking out what the YouTube Editor has to offer, check out the slides from my presentation below, and visit http://youtube.com/editor. Stay tuned for my other two Google presentations in the posts that follow.

How to Become an iPad Keyboard Ninja! (The Education Edition)

Some people love it, others hate it, but the iPad keyboard is here to stay. Personally, I love it. I almost never use an external keyboard because the on-screen one works so well. It is also packed full of hidden features you might never have used before. So, if you are ready to become an iPad Keyboard Ninja, read on!

Three Layers of iPad Goodness

So, let’s start with the basics. There are three layers to the iPad keyboard. The first is the one you see every time the keyboard pops up. It has a QWERTY keyboard and some of the other most often used keys. To access layer two, tap the .?123 button in the bottom left or bottom right hand corner. Here you will find numbers, punctuation and an Undo button. Layer three is accessed from layer two by tapping the #+= button in the bottom left and bottom right of the keyboard. Here you will find more punctuation, special characters like the percentage sign, asterisk and even some currency symbols. The Redo button is also on layer three. To get back to the number keyboard (layer 2) tap .?123, or tap ABC to go right back to the first layer (QWERTY).

Thumb Texters Unite

In iOS 5, Apple added the option to use a split keyboard for typing. Some students prefer this as a typing option because they have been raised on cell phones and small screens where they tap away at insane speeds to type their messages. Some adults like it too. How do you do it? Put two fingers on any two keys and pull them apart. The keyboard will stay that way until you push it back together with a finger on each side. If for some reason your keyboard will not split, go to Settings > General > Keyboard and turn on the switch next to Split Keyboard.

split ipad keyboard

Hide or Move the Keyboard

Sometimes the keyboard just gets in the way, especially in landscape mode, and it can be hard to see what you just typed. However, you can hide, or move the keyboard very easily. In the bottom right hand corner of the iPad keyboard is a button that looks like a keyboard with a down arrow. Tap it once to hide the keyboard. Press and hold it to see another way to split your keyboard or undock it. If you undock the keyboard you can slide it up and down your page to see text that may be hidden behind it. To move the keyboard, press and hold the same button and slide up and down on a page. To dock the keyboard, press and hold the keyboard button and select Dock.

undock split ipad keyboard


Have you found the caps lock on your iPad yet? Simply double tap the shift key on either side and it will turn blue. You have now activated caps lock and everything you type will be in all caps. Tap the shift key again to exit caps lock…and stop shouting on the Internet! 🙂

caps lock ipad

Shortcuts to Success

The iPad Keyboard can be programmed to autocomplete some simple words and phrases to save you time. For example, try typing omw and the iPad will offer up the option to autocomplete the phrase On my way! Just tap space to type the automated text. You can program custom commands too. On my iPad, typing jw followed by the space bar will type my work email address. Think about how often you have to type that. Wouldn’t you or your students like a shortcut? You could even set up some words or phrases for students with spelling or fine motor difficulties, and list them on a card next to the iPad for whenever they need to type them. To create your own, go to Settings > General > Keyboard and scroll all the way to the bottom where you will see Add New Shortcut…

keyboard shortcuts ipad

Parlez-vous francais?

How would you like the ability to switch languages on your keyboard without affecting all the other apps and menus? If you are an MFL teacher or have ESL students in your room, this could be a very useful feature. To add a keyboard from another country, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard… By default, there is only one keyboard, but here you can add more. Once you have added the keyboard(s) you need, you will see a new globe button appear in the bottom left hand corner of your iPad keyboard. Tap this to switch keyboards, or press and hold to select the language you want to switch to. Oh, and if you haven’t added the Emoji keyboard yet, you should. You can thank me later! 🙂

ipad keyboard languages

The Case of the Missing Apostrophe…and Other Rogue Keys

A complaint I hear often about the iPad keyboard is that there is no apostrophe on the top layer of the iPad. You have to dive into the second layer every time you want to type a contraction correctly. Actually, that’s not true. Press and hold the exclamation mark and, as if by magic, the apostrophe appears above it. Slide your finger up to select it. Press and hold the question mark and you will find quotation marks. Want to write café like the French do? Press and hold the letter E to find an e with an accent on it. There are lots more like this. Try some other keys to see what you can find. It is great for word origins, foreign language words, and more.

Hidden iPad Apostrophe Key

The Safari Address Bar Keyboard

Ever noticed the keyboard change depending on whether you are searching the Internet or typing a website address? Take a look, because it does. Typing in the address bar of Safari modifies your keyboard. The space bar disappears, because Safari knows you don’t need a space bar to enter a website address. What you might need however, is the colon, forward slash, underscore and hyphen keys, so Apple adds those instead. You also get a .com button to help complete those URLs you are typing in the address bar. Better still, if you press and hold the .com button, you can also select .edu, .org, .net or .us. Just slide up to select the one you want.

safari keyboard ipad

Speech to Text for (Almost) Everyone!

If you have an iPad 3, iPad 4, or an iPad Mini, your keyboard has a built-in dictation feature that will turn your words to text at the tap of a button in any app you can type in. Simply tap the microphone on your keyboard to activate Siri Dictation and clearly speak the words you want to dictate. Press the microphone again when you are finished and the iPad will turn your speech to text. A list of what you can say can be found here, and again it can be a great tool for young writers, and those with spelling or fine motor difficulties. Be aware that you will need a WiFi connection for this to work, and your mileage may vary on translations if used in a noisy classroom. Consider a USB mic or headset. If you have an original iPad or an iPad 2 try Dragon Dictation or PaperPort Notes for similar functionality.

ipad dictation

Spell Check and Auto Correct

I’m not about to debate the merits of spell check and auto correct here, but if you are tired of the iPad suggesting or correcting words that you don’t want changed, or your students are doing something like a spelling test on the iPad, you can turn off all those automated keyboard corrections by going to Settings > General > Keyboard and flipping a few switches to the off position. You can also turn off the ability to double tap the space bar to insert a period in this menu too.

autocorrect options ipad

And with that, I now proclaim you an iPad Keyboard Ninja. Go forth and spread your knowledge, and feel free to leave any tips of your own on innovative ways you use the iPad keyboard in your classroom in the comments below.

iWork for iCloud Beta: Hands on With Apple’s Answer to Google Drive

iCloud Home

This week I got an email from Apple inviting me to try out the Beta version of iWork for iCloud. I was keen to see how useful this could be for educators in the classroom, and whether or not it could be a serious contender to my current favorite online productivity suite – Google Drive. So, I logged in to iCloud with Chrome on my Mac and there they were – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – complete with all the documents I had created on my Mac and iPads.

Keynote Slide

The interface is familiar, yet different. The menus are a hybrid of the desktop and iOS version of iWork, but they are intuitive enough that you can almost always find what you are looking for without too much trouble. You won’t find all the features you are used to in the desktop (or even iOS) versions, but more functionality will doubtless come in time, and most of the essentials are included in the beta version.

iWork for iCloud runs on Mac or PC and is compatible with the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. For some reason, Firefox is not a supported browser right now, but if you click past the warning messages it does seem to run as you would expect it to in other browsers, so it will likely be supported once it leaves the beta stage of development. iWork for iCloud is an HTML5 environment which Firefox is obviously more than capable of running.

Syncing has worked great, but I have never really had a problem in the past moving between documents on my iPad and my Mac, so that didn’t surprise me too much. Changes made on the web, my Mac, and my iPad were all quickly synced to the other devices.


Does it beat Google Drive? Not yet, for me at least. iWork for iCloud works well, but right now it still lacks some collaboration and sharing options that I have come to enjoy with Google. For instance, real-time collaboration can be a great boon for teachers and students, as can the ability to leave comments on a document. There are no signs of either appearing in iWork any time soon. That said, the ability to share a link to your document is listed as “coming soon” so the potential for improvements in this area does exist.


If you are curious to check out more about what iWork for iCloud can and can’t do, you can check out the newly created Apple online help guides, even if you don’t have access to the Beta program at this time. The links for those are below:

UPDATE: Another important support page to read is Opening iWork for iOS and iWork ’09 documents in iWork for iCloud Beta. This gives more information on what to do if you try to open a document that has features that are unsupported in the current version of iWork for iCloud. Thanks to Kathy Schrock for the heads up on this one.

Have you been playing with the new iWork for iCloud Beta? What do you most like about it and how do you think it could fit into your classroom workflow?

The Collaborative iPad Classroom at #iPadU – Slide to Unlock Learning

iPadU Logo

So, our first iPadU conference has come and gone, but it was a great couple of days with around 200 educators from Iowa and beyond gathering together to discover and share the best ways that they have found to integrate the iPad into a K-12 classroom. My third and final presentation at this conference was on The Collaborative iPad Classroom, and you can learn more about that below.

Collaboration is key in a modern classroom. Students need to be able to work in small teams or groups to complete tasks because it is an important life skill that they will all use at one point or another when the leave the education system. However, collaboration on an iPad, is not always as obvious as you might think.

There are lots of apps out there that let you collaborate. My intention was not to cover them all – no time for that – but instead to show the ones that had the most variety, the ones that were cross-curricular, and the ones that had the greatest potential to help encourage authentic collaborative learning experiences.

So, if you are looking for more ways that your students can collaborate in an iPad classroom, feel free to take a look at my slides below, and leave a comment with your own favorite collaboration apps below.

60 FREE Apps in 60 Minutes at #iPadU – Slide to Unlock Learning

iPadU Logo

Yesterday I shared the first of three presentations I am doing at iPadU: Slide to Unlock Learning, and today I am happy to share presentation number two – 60 FREE Apps in 60 Minutes…or less! I have done a lot of presentations over the last two years or so, but I have always wanted to do a “60 in 60”, and although I did co-present one recently, I am glad I had the chance to do one on my own this time.

This is a very different type of presentation that I normally give. There is not a great deal of time to talk about integration strategies because you only have around 60 seconds per app. This is more about a rapid dissemination of information, a list that you can refer back to at a later date, or a quick and snappy way to introduce new apps. All the apps can be shown to have great classroom applications with students.

I know that the iPad is about more than just the apps. It has to be. It is the application of these apps that is most important and the ways that they can be used to meet your classroom objectives. I try to make that as clear as I can when giving this presentation, but the pace of it is such that I sometimes forget to repeat enough. So, use it as you see fit! 🙂

The Slideshare version is below, but if I make any changes after the conference, you can see those immediately on the Google Presentation version: http://goo.gl/wKlvh

Here’s Looking at You PreK-2 from #iPadU – Slide to Unlock Learning

iPadU Logo

This week, my esteemed employers, Grant Wood AEA, are hosting their first iPad conference – iPadU: Slide to Unlock Learning. Our keynote speaker and VIP presenter is Kathy Schrock, but we have a number of other talented educators who have kindly volunteered their time to present their own take on iPad integration in K-12 classrooms. I will be presenting three times, so I thought I would share my slides here for anyone that was interested.

My first session is titled “Here’s Looking at You PreK-2” and is geared at highlighting some of the important work being done with iPads in PreK-2 classrooms. I don’t get into these classrooms as much as I might like, but any elementary teacher will tell you that these are some of the most important years for children who are developing skills and finding new ways to explore the world.

As much as I endorse the importance of technology in the classroom, and strive to find new ways to be creative with it, I do believe that it is important to have a balance, especially in PreK-2 where there is so much new learning and discovery going on. As such, many of the examples you will see in the slideshow below were included for just that reason. They blend technology with more traditional learning methods like writing, group work, class discussions and so forth, because these are important skills that it would be foolish to overlook at this stage of a child’s development.

So, the slides are embedded below. Take from them what you want, and feel free to share them with anyone you think might benefit from them. I will post the other presentations over the next couple of days, but this has been a busy month, so bear with me! 🙂 I was presenting at ISTE a couple of weeks ago, I have iPadU this week, and in a couple more weeks I will be presenting at the Iowa Google Summit.