Noel Erskine, Technology Coordinator Norris Schools

Welcome to my technology blog.
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💥 Tech tools - BIG things added this week!!! New Gmail look coming, SPARK tools for EDU!, PBS resources, New file convert added for you... and more in this weeks teck tips email!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Premium Adobe Spark tools are free for education... and you may be the first in the nation to try them out! 

Here at Norris... our network admin (Bryan Williams) ROCKS!  By the time I started to talk to him about this... he had it already set up and ready to go for us! I am guessing there is no other school in the nation that beat us to the trigger.... so be the first to try it out!  This doc will walk you through the step-by-step process to get your account setup and ready to roll. 

A new look and some new features coming to Gmail: 

Google announced there will be a redesign coming soon to Gmail.  Check out this article with a few leaked screenshots to get an idea of what's coming down the pipe soon.

CloudConvert - A new free service added to our domain.   You can now easily convert files right inside your Google Drive. (This service has been added for all staff and HS and MS students.) 

Misc. Tech tools and websites:

What a great web drawing tool!  Check it out --SketchPad's site works with any browser or Chromebook. I have added this to my list in our tech doc: Whiteboard and drawing tools.  

Google Keep:
If you are not using Google Keep - You are missing out!  It works great with our teacher Chromebooks and pens!  Check out our tips sheet to get started!  If you need help getting started... give our Tech Integrationist, Jason Gault, a call at 2010.  He's awesome to work with! 
Google Sites:

The new Google Sites automatically creates an intuitive navigation bar that links to content within your site, but there may be times when you want to create your own links that go somewhere else. That’s why Google is adding a new feature where you can link to any URL from the navigation bar.

The PBS NOVA Labs have some great online resources:
Nova Sun Lab - Despite its apparently steady glow, the Sun is a churning mass of superhot plasma that regularly produces powerful flares and storms that can knock out power and communication systems on Earth. This Lab explores what makes the Sun so volatile and gives you access to the same data, images, and tools that scientists use to predict solar storms.

Cybersecurity Lab - Take cybersecurity into your own hands. In this Lab, you’ll defend a company that is the target of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. Your task is to strengthen your cyber defenses and thwart the attackers by completing a series of cybersecurity challenges. You’ll crack passwords, craft code, and defeat malicious hackers.

Energy Lab - For something we use every day, energy is a pretty mysterious concept. This Lab investigates what energy is, how it can be converted into useful forms, and why some sources are running low. In our Research Challenge, you'll use scientific data to design renewable energy systems for cities across the U.S.—and compete with others to see whose designs can produce the most power.

Cloud Lab - Covering some 70 percent of Earth's surface, clouds play a key role in our planet's well-being. But how do they form, why are there so many types, and what clues can they give us about the weather and climate to come? Try your hand at classifying clouds and investigating the role they play in severe tropical storms.

RNA Virtual Lab - Nature’s best-kept secret is a wonder molecule called RNA. It is central to the origin of life, evolution, and the cellular machinery that keeps us alive. In this Lab you’ll play the role of a molecular engineer by solving RNA folding puzzles. Then take your skills to Eterna, where you can design RNAs that could be at the heart of future life-saving therapies.

SAS Curriculum Pathways have some great K-12 resources- Interactive, standards-based resources in the core disciplines.
Check out their website for more info.  (All free resources.) 


Looking for an engaging Google Slides lesson that you can teach in just 45 minutes? Try out our newest lesson for middle and high school students: Create a Presentation "All About a Topic." Choose any subject you'd like, from "all about my spring break" to "all about the Industrial Revolution"!
Students will learn the basics of Google Slides, including how to:
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  1. Choose a theme, insert slides, and add a title.
  2. Add images, text, animations, and transitions.
  3. Digitally share and comment.
Google's Applied Digital Skill curriculum has a lot of resources for your classroom!  Check out all of the lessons here. 

💥 Tech tools - New Google digital citizenship resource, cool web tools, nice add-ons and extensions and more in this weeks tech email!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This one hurts:
Google is shutting down URL shortener next year, existing links will keep working.  -Article with more info here. Most of the time, it's awesome news from Google - but this one hurts a little!  I love their shorter and Chrome extension. 

Check out this awesome new online safety website from Google 
It’s called Interland and is free!  Check it out! 

Short 1 1/2 minute video walk-through. 

Did you know this about your Chromebook?
  • -If you just shut the lid, your Chromebook is still draining your battery!  Putting your Chromebook to sleep by shutting the lid is fine, but if you are not going to use it for a while, I would shut it down. 
  • -Shortcuts are awesome - 10 Keyboard Shortcuts Every Chromebook Owner Should Know. (The last one on the list will show you all shortcuts!) 
  • -press Ctrl+ Shift + N on a desktop or Chromebook and you will be using Chrome in incognito mode.  It will not load extensions and does not know who you are logged into Google as. This is very handy for checking out problems with extensions or logging into a personal Gmail inbox. 

Misc. Websites and tech tools:
This one has been a teacher favorite (and one of mine) for many years...  Padlet allows you to save and curate all kinds of links, texts, video, pretty much whatever you want onto one online bulletin board. Now the bad news... They have free and paid plans rolling out.  The free plan limits you to 3 padlets - but still usable for most of us.  5 Alternatives to Padlet. 

Diigo is a social bookmarking tool. I have used this one for many years!  (It's how I save and curate my content.) Not only can you save your bookmarks in the cloud, but you can tag, create groups, and annotate on web pages. It’s also a great tool for older students to curate and research.

Create Magic in your Classroom - Teachers, you and your students can create Augmented Reality Experiences without needing to write any code. Metaverse is a FREE Augmented Reality Platform that is being used by thousands of teachers to build all kinds of interactive learning experiences for their classrooms. (I have not tried this yet, but looks pretty cool.) Here is a playlist of videos to get started with this platform

The most powerful GSuite App you are not using! - Data Studio creates easy to read reports and charts from a number of different data sources (Including Google Sheets.).  These video tutorials will get you started. 

Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week – Create MadLibs With a Google Sheets Template 

Wheel Decide - Paste your name list, etc... spin the wheel.  Great randomizer site. 


SeeSaw is a great communications tool for the K-6 grade levels.  The free version seems to satisfy all teachers needs.(Based on other school and teacher comments)  Give it a try! 

Google Slides:

Google Keep:

It's a GREAT tool! If you are not using it.. give it a try.  (Here is our Google Keep tip's sheet.) 

Google has made it incredibly simple to copy your notes from Keep into Google Docs. Jack Wallen shows you how to make use of this, without having to constantly use Ctl+C and Ctl+V.

Annotate Videos with VideoANT 

It's simple and free.... Add annotations to any publicly accessible YouTube video. Copy the URL of the YouTube and paste it into the VideoANT annotation tool. As the video plays click the "add annotation" button when you want to add an annotation.You are the only person that has to have a VideoANT account...your collaborators do not need to have an account to participate in the annotation process with you. 

Google Sheets:

14 Impressive Things You Can Do with Google Sheets  -Slide 3 is a pretty cool appliction. 

PDF Tools:

Smallpdf has several tools.  It's eSign PDF works for signing documents.  They have a large number of other web/browser-based tools that. They limit you to two free tasks per hour.  (It's based on a cookie they put on your browser, so clearing cache may get you more tasks.) 

PDF Buddy - This browser-based tool lets you sign or edit up to three PDF files every month for free. It’s a good solution if you work with PDFs only occasionally. 

HelloSign - Get 3 documents free per month.  Visit their Google login here.  They also have a Google Doc add-in, but for signing Google docs I would just create a jpg signature pic and insert it into your Google Doc. 

Chrome Extensions:
There are several tools for taking screenshots, and Chromebooks even have some basic ones built right in... but this FireShot extension is worth the look. (We have added it to our list of approved student extensions.) 

New add-ons available in February 2018
February was a dynamic month on Google add-on stores. 35 add-ons were launched (most of them on the Google Sheets add-on store) and 184 were updated.

Among the new add-ons, 5 of them caught our attention. - Check them out!  -Note- Not sure I like their 5 listed, but there are some other great ones at the bottom of the article/list. ~Noel

Cool student activity for the younger grades.  (Distribute with Google Classroom!) 
Qhat better time to have your students work on their creative writing skills with a Springtime-themed writing activity.

Help students through the four-step writing process with these free tools:

Writing Navigator goes beyond identifying what's right and what's wrong. It prompts students to make creative decisions and find the right words in the best order by providing assistance at each of the four steps of the writing process. 
Students get feedback about their writing and begin to think like experienced writers over time. 
Writing Planner helps students generate ideas and organize them into a writing plan.
Writing Drafter transforms the plan into a first draft. It helps students develop sentences, supporting details and transitions. 
Writing Reviser provides feedback that helps students make their sentences more economical, varied, powerful and clear. This popular resource is also available as a Google Docs add-on
In this final stage, students use Writing Publisher to proofread and correct any errors before publishing a polished essay. It can even help with citations.

💥 Tech tools - New Google activity dashboard! SAY YES to this!!! , Tech tools, Download YouTube Videos, Chrome extensions for EDU and more in this weeks tech post.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

NEW - Activity dashboard in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides!
Great new feature:
See who has viewed a file:
  1. On your computer, open a file in Google DocsSheets, or Slides that you can edit.
  2. At the top, click Tools and then Activity Dashboard.
Note: You can only view activity on files owned by a Google Account that can use Activity Dashboard.

You may be presented with the following agreement/warning: 

Some great websites and tech tools:
Google Hacks for the Educator - Great tips!   - A slide deck presented at a recent Google Summit.  

Going Further with Google Photos 2.0 - A slide deck presented at a recent Google Summit. 

Around the World with Google Geo  - A slide deck presented at a recent Google Summit. 

Video Playlist of strategies for students around using images in Google Docs - Nice short tutorials - worth the watch! 

More info from Google on this new feature:
G Suite makes it easier for users to collaborate efficiently and effectively. An important part of collaboration is deciding how and when to follow up with others. To help inform these decisions, we're introducing Activity dashboard in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It’s a feature that lets users with edit access see who has viewed the file and when they viewed it.

Google Forms:

If you are new to using Google forms - check this out!  Google Forms for Educators - Introduction/tutorial. 

Several free Chrome apps for the classroom:

Create stop-motion animation with Clap Motion: EDU Review on this product: This is a new Chrome App I recently discovered. Free to use, works offline, super simple.

LabCamera - Real-time video analysis in your classroom- Track and graph horizontal and vertical movement of objects with Intellisense LabCamera Kinematics module. The webcam based natural science exploration and data logging laboratory for STEM education. LabCamera allows students and teachers to carry out substantial scientific observations and measurements by using our software and a simple everyday webcam. Conducting physics, biology and chemistry experiments with LabCamera - both in the classroom and at home - brings natural science education to a new level.

The CleanPrint extension is pretty nice!  Here is a short 2 min. video on how to use it.  

Use to Download Videos from YouTube
  • Find a YouTube video you want to download
  • In the URL, take the ‘ube’ out of and then hit ENTER
  • Pick to download the file as an MP3 (sound) or MP4 (video) file
  • Great if you need to get a video to play offline for an educational reason or to store in your Google Drive. 

Google Docs - Image Annotation with Drawings  Great Tip!
  • Take an image into a GDoc
  • Click on the image and COPY it
  • Find an open space in the doc and click so the cursor is there
  • Drawing window opens. PASTE your image
  • Use the shapes, arrows, lines, text tools to do whatever editing is needed over the image and then 
  • Click SAVE AND CLOSE when done and the ‘drawing’ is in the doc. Can double click on the drawing to go back in and edit if needed. 
  • Great way to MARK-UP images right in the doc!

💥 Tech tools - Cool classroom tools, Some amazing Chrome extensionsand more!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Misc. Tech tools and sites:

My Top 20 Tech Tips for Teachers! via Kasey Bell

Pretty cool site and simple site for name picking: Name Picker Ninja! 

WOW - Google has needed this feature - but this add-on comes to the rescue! Add audio to Google Slides with this cool add-on to slides. 

Guide: 25 Ways to use Forms in the Classroom - A great free guide by John Sowash. 

Great Google Form Add-on! - Certify'em - Emails a PDF certificate to a person if they score high enough on a Forms quiz - A database of historical maps that can be used with Google Earth. (Some pretty cool historical maps.) is a free, core academic website that delivers rich multimedia content--videos, animations, and simulations--on general education subjects to middle-school and high-school teachers and college professors, and their students, free of charge. Teachers project HippoCampus content during classroom learning and assign it for computer labs and homework. Students use the site in the evenings for study and exam prep. Users do not need to register or log in to use the site.

Some great Chrome extensions that are exciting and new finds!

ExtensionScreenShade by EdTechTeam  - ScreenShade lets you quickly and easily cover your screen or a portion of it. You can use ScreenShade to hide the answers to questions, block out something you don't want an audience to see, or let students uncover if they know the answer. 

CheckMark - Great tool for providing feedback in docs!  After installing CheckMark, simply enable the extension and select some text in a Google Doc! You'll see an overlay of frequently-used comments that you can easily select.

Talk&Comment - Voice Notes Anywhere -  Make voice notes and comments on any site or app! - Video here

docAppender is a Chrome extension that takes information gathered in a Google Form and adds it to an existing Google Doc. Here are some great idea's on how to use it in the classroom to save time.  

This one is really not applicable to us here at Norris, since it's easier to do this within GoGuardian. But I wanted to include this, since I also post this on my tech blog.  -  Whisper - Great tool for use with Google Classroom! Communicate with students without interrupting the work. More info here:

A few great extensions for special needs:
Read Aloud: A Text to Speech Voice Reader - Read out loud the current web-page article with one click. Supports 40+ languages. (Similar to Announcify)

OpenDyslexic -  Open-Dyslexic is an open sourced font created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. This extension overrides all fonts on web pages with the OpenDyslexic font, and formats pages to be more easily readable. 

Awesome list of tools for creating study aids and games from Tony Vincent. -Check them out here

I have mentioned this one in the past... but wanted to highlight it again.  It's a great tool with many uses in the classroom: 

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Tour Builder - Put your story on the map.
Tell your stories with photos, videos and rich text on Google Earth.

💥 Tech tools - NETA Congrats!, TIPS , New Google tools, Video tools, More Google Fonts and more!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Congrats to these Norris staff members for being presenters at this years NETA conference!

Katie Mueller, Jamie Kernes, Shelly Coe, Julia Odgers, and Jason Gault will be presenting at this year's conference - Congrats!  Here is a list of their sessions.   Natasha Gault was also awarded a Classroom grant for $$$ for her classroom!

If you have not registered to be a member - DO SO NOW!  It's free, and gets you a great email newsletter as well as an opportunity to apply for classroom grants, contests, and more!  

Misc. Web tools and sites:

Free tools to make your students better writers! - Quill provides free writing and grammar activities for elementary, middle, and high school students. (Overview Video here.) 

ABC Mouse provides content for pre-K and Kindergartners.   Though it charges families, teachers can sign-up for their own virtual classrooms. (Full Online Curriculum for children AGES 2– 8) 

How about a #gafe4littles activity!
Leprechaun edition of the create and graph on computer devices. In Google Sheets Littles create a scene with the drawing, graph their items, and complete word/number sentences.  Make a copy of the Google Doc here to get started

Book Creator - An awesome tool for creativity 

Students Can Work Together with Book Creator’s Collaboration Feature - Great on Chromebooks!   Side note for Norris staff - We also have this available for the iPads. 

To help kickstart your bookmaking, we've curated 50 top tipsideas and lesson plans from teachers that have already successfully integrated Book Creator into their classroom (and yes, we made this book using Book Creator).  Check it out! 

Add more fonts to your Google Docs!


Check out this article that walks you through the process! -How to add more fonts to Google Docs

Video tools for Chromebooks:

Several favorites from this list include Screencastify, Loom, Spark tools and more... 

Some nice tools from our very own Tristan Mitchell Mrs__TMitchell:
Here are some review/practice tools that I use in Technology that the students seem to enjoy! 
  • Think On Your Feet (which I know some of you already use) is a GoNoodle game show that incorporates movement. You can upload your own questions and have teams compete against each other for points. Warning: this can get prettyyyyy intense! 
  • has templates for a jeopardy type game, flashcards, BINGO cards, crossword puzzle, memory game, and lots more! You can save each template as a link and share!

Find the perfect IOS App:

Finding an App Based on Student Need - The Insignio database can assist.
Finding an App Based on Content or Topic -  Try fnd. This website allows you to search for apps by content or topic.
Finding an App Based on Recommendations - Some resources from TCEA:

The New Google Hangouts Chat  

Google has added a new tool as a part of Gsuite and it's called Hangouts Chat.  I know we have had hangouts and chatting for a while, but this is a little different. (Side note - It's Google's answer to Slack, which is really big in the business world now.)

Nothing changes with hangouts, so we can continue doing video and chat the way we have been. The difference here is you can now use and create rooms and discussions threads within those rooms.  You then have a nice location (Room) for all of your threads as well as notifications when things are added, etc... "A team approach". 
For now, we have enabled this feature for all staff here at Norris.  (WIth classroom, not sure it's a needed feature for students.)  I have updated our Google Hangouts doc  (Chat Section here) to include the new chat feature. 

If you have questions or need help... let us know!

How to manage file versions in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
Rather than creating a new file, you may just need to create a named version of that file that you can refer to--or print--later. Here's how to manage the file version from your desktop browser.

Airbus CIO: We dumped Microsoft Office, not over cost but because Google G suite looks sweet.
Here is the article. I thought I would share... Google owns the education market now... but many companies use Google as well. 

Some nice tools from our very own Jennifer Hutzler:  
I had the opportunity to learn from Tony Vincent at a conference recently.  If you want to follow him on social media he always has quick tech tips or ideas to use in the classroom.  Here are a few links and ideas he shared.  I think we only got to about half of the formative assessment session, but are several things and great graphics on his page. - play with photos and text 

chatterpix - add voice to screenshots or drawings.  (App) - make explainer videos  & easy way to make mindmaps

Authentic Questions - more ideas on his website, like how to teach students to effectively search using google

Formative Assessment & - create interactive polls and lists