5 Chromebook Tips for Teachers

Chromebooks seem to be the hot new device that everyone is talking about, so if you are lucky enough to be starting the school year with some of Google’s laptops, check out the quick presentation below that has 5 Chromebooks tips especially for teachers. The tips include…

  1. Saving to Google Drive instead of the Files app
  2. A new full screen mode for the latest version of Chrome OS
  3. The Screen Magnifier that lets you zoom in on specific parts of your screen
  4. Enabling Caps Lock on a Chromebook
  5. Help with Offline Apps that make your Chromebook more versatile

You may also want to check out a previous post I did that was a Chromebook 101 for Teachers, and if you liked this, be sure to click through to see the followup to this post that has 5 MORE Chromebook Tips for Teachers.

The Best Free K-12 iPad Apps You Might Never Have Heard Of!

Looking for some new iPad apps to use in your classroom this year? New apps are released every week, but which ones are really worth your time? Which ones could truly push the boundaries of teaching and learning in your classroom? Sometime I am surprised at what apps people have not discovered yet, but often I am equally surprised at what I see other teachers using.  So here is a quick rundown of the best free K-12 iPad apps you might never have heard of!

StageTellagamiOur StoryToDo MathThinglink

Stage Interactive Whiteboard and Document Camera – While it may win the prize for the longest app title in the App Store, it is also a genuinely useful app that helps add yet another useful feature to your iPad. It turns it into a document camera, complete with annotation tools for your to mark up objects over a live view camera. The app is free, but there is an optional $1.99 in-app purchase if you would like to record your live session as a video.

Tellagami – If you haven’t tried Tellagami yet, you have got to give this free app a try. It lets you create a Voki-esque talking avatar video. Videos are limited to 30 seconds, but are highly customizable. You can type the text for your audio and have it read by a voice of your choice, or use your own voice. Backgrounds, facial expressions, and gender can also be changed. Videos can be saved to the camera roll for use later in apps like iMovie.

Our Story (for iPad) – This excellent digital storytelling app is simple to use and easy to achieve great results with. Created by the Open University, it allows you to add photos from your camera roll and add text and/or audio to them. It’s perfect for elementary teachers who are looking to introduce their students to digital storytelling for the first time. A good alternative app here is 30 Hands.

ToDo K-2 Math Practice – With activities that are aligned with Common Core State Standards, ToDo Math may be a great option for early years teachers looking to help their student practice some basic math facts. Skills include counting, writing numerals, addition and subtraction, but it has some nice additional touches. For instance, at the end of each level, students are also asked as to whether the questions were too easy, just right, or too hard, and subsequent questions are then adjusted accordingly depending on how they answer.

Thinglink – Welcome to the future of images, proclaim Thinglink, and I think they might be right! With Thinglink, you can add interactive elements to a picture. Web links, YouTube videos, camera roll videos, and text can all be hidden under hotspot targets on an image so that students can give multimedia description of their images.


Showbie – Still struggling with getting student assignments from their iPad to yours? Revolutionize your iPad workflow with Showbie, a (mostly) free service that was built for just that purpose. It is slick, easy to manage, and works  effortlessly. It’s the kind of app that Apple should have built for teachers a long time ago, but they didn’t. It can be used at all grade levels because students do not need an email address to sign up.

TouchCast – With Thinglink, you add interactive elements over a picture. With TouchCast, you add interactive elements over a video! They are called vApps, or video apps, and include the likes of Twitter feeds, web pages, photos, news tickers, polls and more. You can also add filters to your video or experiment with the green screen effect. TouchCasts are shared online.

Duolingo – Looking to introduce a second language to your students? Duolingo might be a good place to start. This popular app starts with the basics, but soon has you translating more and more difficult texts. It might not replace Rosetta Stone yet, but it has a clean, fresh look, and includes gamification elements to boot. Most importantly, it makes learning fun. With Duolingo you can learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English.

Moldiv – This photo collage editor may have in-app purchases, but it offers so much for free that you may as well forget that they are there. Choose from around 80 frame layouts for your photos, and add stylish fonts or labels to your collage. You can change the background color of your collage and even adjust the spacing, margins and roundness of your collage corners. Finished collages can be saved back to the camera roll or send to other apps for sharing or further edits.

Cargo-bot – Interested in teaching your students about programming, but not sure where to start? Cargo-bot may be just what you need. The premise is simple. Move crates from one side of the screen to the other. The execution, however, is less simple. It starts off easy with some in-app prompts, but soon gets more complicated and requires you to think like a programmer to complete your task in hand. Alternative free programming apps include Hopscotch and Daisy the Dinosaur.

Is your favorite on this list? Do you have an app which you like that most teachers don’t know about it? Feel free to share your comments below.

How to Add Favicons to Google Sites

Some time ago, I talked about how to add an Apple Touch Icon to a Google Site. Today I want to show you how to add favicons to a Google Site. It is quick, easy, and a fun way to add some extra style to your website.

What is a Favicon? A favicon is a small icon associated with a website that you will see on every tab, and/or in the address bar next to the URL, depending on what browser you use. You can make your own favicon with any number of free favicon generators out there, but sometimes I just like to head over to FreeFavicon.com and download one of their free, ready-made favicons.

free favicon.com

Once you have the image you want, you first need to make sure that you have the filename correct. Google Sites only recognize favicons that are named favicon.ico. If you have it named as anything else, you will need to rename the file first, otherwise the standard Google Sites favicon will remain.

Next, go to More > Manage Site > Attachments > Upload and select your favicon. After that, you are done. You should see the favicon appear on the tab at the top of the page, or in the address bar of your browser within seconds.

upload favicon google sites

It is a very quick tweak, but another way that you can build Google Sites that don’t look like Google Sites. For a video walkthrough of this process, you can watch the awesome Stacy Behmer below:

Convert Files Quickly and Easily with CloudConvert

CloudConvert for converting files

Everybody needs to convert a file from one format to another at some point in time, and there are countless online websites that will do that for you. However, most specialize in just a few formats. Zamzar used to be one of my favorites, but, thanks to a tweet by Steve Katz on Twitter, CloudConvert.org is my new belle. Here’s why.

To begin with, the service is free, at least for now, but it also lets you link up your Dropbox and/or Google Drive accounts to convert files that you store in the cloud, wherever you are. It can convert up to 139 different file formats, and can save your files locally, or to your cloud account.

You can convert the same file multiple times to multiple formats, and choose to download a QR code so that you can scan it and save to a mobile device. Only need the first 30 seconds of a video? No problem. Click the wrench for advanced options that let you set the length of time to convert. There are advanced eBook reader options that let you specify which device you want your ebook file to be most compatible with, and there is even a handy Chrome app.

In my own testing, I found the results to be very promising. It wasn’t perfect, but everything converted pretty much the way I expected it to. For teachers, there is not yet any option to convert SMART Notebook or ActivInspire files, but most other formats that educators use are there, and you can even do nice things like strip the audio from an MP4 video file and convert it into an MP3 audio file.

The service is still in Beta, but if you find yourself doing a lot of file conversions, or dealing with formats that you would rather not work with, you should definitely try it out at CloudConvert.org.

Creating Interactive Choose Your Own (Google) Adventure Stories

A fond childhood memory of mine was going to the library once a week to check out some of my favorite types of books – the Choose Your Own Adventure series. They were created by Edward Packard and were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s. While the books are less popular today, the legend lives on in digital formats that are always appealing to students. Here is how to create some interactive stories of your own using Google Apps.


Recently I saw a great example from a fellow Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, Michelle Anderson. I’d never thought about using Google Forms for this before, but clearly it is a great use of the tool. The choices hinge on a feature inside Google Forms that let you go to a certain page based on how you answer the question. So, once you have planned out your narrative, all you have to do is select the right page to link to for a given response. Simple, but very effective. You can try Michelle’s adventure here, and don’t forget about the ability to add images to Google Forms!

Choose Your Own Adventure Google Form


Want to try something different? Try using Google Presentations. Instead of creating pages, like you would with Forms, you create slides to tell your story. This gives you a little more flexibility in the visual design of your story, but it also opens up more options in terms of the media you can include…namely video. Slides can be linked together via the link function that you may normally use to insert a hyperlink, only this time you select “Slides in this presentation”.

Google Presentation for Interactive Storytelling


You can use Google Docs for your Choose Your Own Adventure story too. It would work in a similar way to Presentations, but this time you would use bookmarks to jump around in your text. Create the bookmark by placing your cursor or highlighting text next to where you want to jump to and clicking Insert > Bookmark. Then highlight the text that you want to jump to that point, and click Insert > Link and choose Bookmarks to select the point in text you want to navigate to. Links can be changed or removed later if needed. For bonus points, be sure to rearrange your text so that it will not read in a linear fashion, just like the books of yesteryear that made no sense when read chronologically page by page.

Google Docs for Choose Your Own Adventure


An increasingly popular way to create your own Choose Your Own Adventure story is to use YouTube. There are countless examples of these types of videos on YouTube with some obviously better than others. However, when done well, these can be very effective ways to communicate a story. To create your adventure, you first need to shoot all your movies, (including alternative outcomes), and upload them to YouTube. Best keep them private to start with, but you can change your privacy afterwards. To link between videos and give the users a choice in your story you use the YouTube annotations to link between your videos. Below is an example of just such a video that Greg Kulowiec created with his Social Studies class.

Not Using Google Drive?

If you’re not using Google Apps in your school, check out Inklewriter, a free story telling tool that was created to help students build exactly this kind of interactive journey. At ISTE 2013 this year, I went to a session led by a couple of EdTech Pirates. It was presented with the help of Inklewriter, so we had a choose your own adventure PD session where we voted on what we wanted to hear about next! Genius. More on Inklewriter in the video below.

Did this give you some ideas? How would you use Choose Your Own Adventure stories to enhance your Language Arts or Social Studies lessons? Feel free to leave a comment below to share your experiences.