Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Google's Ommibox: More Than Meets the Eye

When you think of the part of your browser where you enter a web address, you probably don't realize it has a name.  Google calls it the Omnibox.  It can do much more than simply take you to a web address.  Besides that, you can search anything online (just like going to Google) and you can set it to search specific websites only.  Below, you will see a few examples of the tricks Google's Omnibox can do.


Most of us simply go to Google.com to utilize the search engine.  Take a step out of that process by simply typing your search query in the Omnibox.  After pressing enter, you'll be taken to Google, or the search engine of your choice, with your search results.

How do I set up my preferred search engine?  Go to the Chrome Settings menu, click Manage Search Engines. From there, select your preferred, default search engine.  You may add search engines if you like.

One of my favorite tricks

Now that you know how to access the search engine settings for the Omnibox, you can "train" it to search specific websites.  A big trend in education is using digital timers (especially if you've been trained in Kagan).  Go to e.ggtimer.com.  This site gives you a variety of timers.  Copy the e.ggtimer.com url.  Go to your settings and click Manage Search Engines.  Scroll down to the bottom where it says Add a new search engine.  Type Eggtimer.  In the Keyword box, type eg.  In the box that says URL with %s in place of query, type e.ggtimer.com?%s.  Click Done.  This trick allows you to quicky access features of this website.

From this point on, you can simply type eg into the Omnibox and push the spacebar.  This sets the Omnibox to only search e.ggtimer.com.  Type the time you'd like for your timer and push enter.  The countdown timer will begin.

A similar trick can be applied to searching a website like YouTube.  If you use YouTube often, go into your Chrome settings.  Click Manage Search Engines.  Scroll down to the bottom where it says Add a new search engine.  Type YouTube.  In the Keyword box, type yt.  In the box that says URL with %s in place of query, type youtube.com/results?search_query=%s.  Click Done.  The difference with this trick was you added /results?search_query=%s to the end of the URL.  This allows you to search that specific website.  Type the keyword.  Push the space button.  Then type your search topic. Hit enter and you'll taken directly to your search results in that website. 

I hope this has been helpful.  Please leave comments with any of your ideas, suggestions or improvements. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Some Ideas for Using Social Media in Your Classroomhttps://g.twimg.com/Twitter_logo_blue.png


Here are some examples of how social media can be used in a classroom.  For me, I like to use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook together.  Each day, I post images to Instagram of what was learned in class. With Twitter and Facebook being connected to Instagram, those pictures get posted to Twitter and Facebook too.  I implemented an "electronic communication" requirement where students must comment with facts learned on my social media posts at least once per week.  They could also message or Tweet me to meet this requirement.  My rationale is based on the fact that students spend massive amounts of time on social media.  Why not have your class content appear on their feeds?

In the classroom, I like to use Twitter as a "checking for understanding" tool.  For my class, I created nine Twitter accounts.  I named them after movie star black belts.  I have nine table groups and each group is assigned to a computer that has their respective Twitter account logged in.  I do not share the log in information with students.  I log them in and out at beginning and end of the day.  Interspersed throughout a lecture or activity, I write "Twitter Prompts" on the board.  Students meet with their groups, discuss the prompt and respond with Twitter at their assigned computer station.

To organize student responses, students are directed to include a VERY specific hashtag.  If it is not specific, when you look for the responses, you may find a variety of Tweets from people all over the Twittersphere.  I use Hootsuite to manage my classroom account.  Hootsuite allows me to create a feed for the hashtag students were directed to use.  This way, it is filtered so I will only see the student responses.  I use the LCD projector to project Hootsuite for students to see their responses. The responses provide fodder for further discussion and it gives me information as to whether or not I need to reteach or move forward.  Hootsuite allows me to see student responses in real time.

Below are some screenshots of student responses to some sample "Twitter Prompts."

All Tweets used the specific #JuarezTweetDemo hashtag

Prompt #1: What is the benefit of social media for teachers?

Prompt #2: Tweet a picture of students using computers or tablets in classroom

Prompt #3: Write three hashtags that capture the theme of this lesson

The pictures above were taken from the column on Hootsuite I created for the #JuarezTwitterDemo hashtag.  I project this column onto the screen after each prompt to encourage discussion and reflection.

Taking a page out of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, social media can be part of homework. Weekly, Jimmy Fallon has his viewers share their funny experiences with a hashtag he assigns.  As teachers, we can do the same thing.  Think of a unique hashtag (you might want to include your class name in the hashtag to make it specific) that encapsulates the themes covered in class for the day or lesson.  You can search the hashtag that night or the next morning to see student responses.  You can share student responses using a website called Storify.

Storify allows you to make slideshows of a variety of social media posts.  Open a free Storify account.  You can sign in with your Twitter account.  Storify will allow you to search posts and topics from a variety of social media platforms. 
Below, I searched my #JuarezTweetDemo hashtag.  It displays the results and you can add all the results, if you want, to your slideshow. 

Give your slideshow a name and description.  

#JuarezTweetDemo Slideshow

Showing the Storify Slideshow the next day in class can prompt useful reflection and discussion. I hope this has been helpful. Please contact me (ajuarez@cojusd.org) with your ideas, comments and feedback.

Lesson Plan and Pacing Guides with Google Calendar

Over the years, my district has mandated the submission of weekly lesson plans.  This required the filling out of a template, printing out and walking it to the office.  Talk about tedious.  What if there were an easier, more convenient way?  With Google Calendar, there is.  Now you still may have to fill out a template, and if so, ask for an electronic copy.

Using Google Calendar for lesson plans makes it easy to share them with administration and substitute teachers (provided they have a Google account).

As you are planning your lessons, create a Google Calendar event for the lesson you plan to teach. For example, if you are teaching a three-day lesson, set the dates in the event.  I suggest setting the event to be All Day.

In the Description box, you may consider including a short description of the lesson and or essential questions.  
Use the Add Attachment function to attach any documents needed to teach the lesson.  This includes Google Docs, Google Slides, PDF files, video/music files.  You will also want to attach your school's official lesson plan template tailor made for this lesson.  Any attached file should be shared with those who will be teaching the lesson.  If you are comfortable, you may want to make the files public. Documents should be saved in Google Drive to make sharing easier.
Be sure to share the calendar with all who need to see the calendar.  Be sure to give the appropriate permissions.  If you share the entire calendar, do not share individual events.  This will put duplicate events on that person's calendar.

With Pacing Calendar and Lesson Plans on Google Calendar, preparing for a lesson is as simple as opening your calendar and the attached documents.  

I hope this has been helpful.  Please contact me (ajuarez@cojusd.org) with any questions, ideas and or improvements.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Use Gmail Directory (GAFE) to Create Groups without Saving Email Addresses to Contacts

Sending email can be cumbersome.  Normally, you simply save someone's email address as a contact and it becomes readily available for you in the future.  But if you're working in Google Apps for Education school or district, you have hundreds of student and staff email addresses to deal with.  It would be much to difficult to save them all as contacts.  If enabled by your Google Apps Admin, the directory allows you to search any address within your domain simply by typing their name in a new message.  

You will get a choice of similar names, but as you type their name more, you can filter down to the person you need.  This function saves you the time of having to save people as contacts.  That process isn't too much of a burden, but anything to save time is a good idea.  Personally, I only save coworkers as contacts if I have their cellphone numbers.  If my contact with them is purely through email, I let the directory do the work for me.

Another cool feature of the directory is the ability to save mail recipients as a group.  An example would be to save the addresses of your department members.  Begin by sending a new email message and include all members of the department in the message.  You don't have to send message, but once they've been entered as recipients, click "To" and you'll taken to your directory.

You will see the people you entered towards the bottom of the directory window.  Below the names, you'll see a button called "Save as group".  Click Save as group and you'll be prompted to name the group.  Name your group and save.  From this point, to send an email to those recipients, simply type the name of the group and those recipients will automatically entered as mail recipients.  

Once you save, a notification will appear saying group was saved.  Click Cancel and go back to your inbox. Depending on your network, it may take a few minutes before you're able to use the group name.  Once the network catches up, you'll be able to type the group name to send a message to the members of the group. To see your group, from your inbox, switch mail to contacts.  

Your group will appear under my contacts.  Click on it to view the members of the group.

Now, I type the name of the group and the members will appear in my email message.

I hope this is useful.  Please contact me with any ideas, suggestions or comments. (ajuarez@cojusd.org)