Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Untether Your Laptop with Chromebit

These days, it's hard to find a classroom that doesn't have an LCD projector and or a flat screen TV as a display for teachers to use. Connecting to these devices can be problematic. Teachers often feel tethered to the port on the wall. This tethered feeling makes it difficult for teachers to move around the classroom when facilitating learning.

It's very inconvenient to have to run back to the computer to move a slide or change something on the screen. In my experience, I have assigned a class job to a student to be the "clicker". This job became obsolete when I got my first wireless mouse. Even though the wireless mouse gave me the freedom to move a bit, I still felt a little trapped. If my laptop was projecting and kids were interacting with what was on the screen, what do I do if I need to take attendance? What do I do if I want to pull a small group aside and work on a different assignment that requires a computer?

A simple answer to those questions is to get another laptop. But do I have to pay for one or will the school? I could get a tablet or use my phone, but those devices don't have the functionality of my laptop. If I did get a tablet, the question remains on who is paying for it. If money is an issue, and usually it is, I have a more cost effective solution to ripping that tether apart. For around $150, an Asus Chromebit and bluetooth keyboard with trackpad is a winner.

A Chromebit is a "Snickers-sized" dongle that is a fully functional Chromebook. The Chromebit has an HDMI connection on the end that allows you to plug it directly into an LCD projector or TV. On the opposite end you will find a USB port where you will plug in the adapter to the bluetooth keyboard with trackpad. Once paired, you can move freely around the room with your keyboard/trackpad manipulating what's on the screen. This frees up your laptop for other tasks and activities.

In my classroom, the Cardinal Innovation Center, I am fortunate to have two TVs. One of which displays vital information during class such as the daily agenda, learning targets and more. My laptop is not burdened with this. I use a Chromebit to free up my laptop for other activities and tasks. I am afforded freedom to move around class easily as I facilitate learning.

Click here to find the Chromebit on the CDW website. Click here to find bluetooth keyboards with built-in trackpads on Amazon.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Winter Break PLN Building Tips: Facebook Edition

A much deserved winter break is upon us. Winter break is a great time to relax and take your mind off work for while. As educators, though, we don't truly ever completely disconnect. Throughout vacation time, I am pretty sure, most educators will have many thoughts about "that one kid" they still struggle reaching or see something on TV that will spark an idea for an engaging activity. I am willing to bet good money that if you're reading this, you are one of those educators.

Winter break is a great time to refill your educator cup with some professional learning. This doesn't mean you need to attend a conference or read a "textbook-like" book. It is simple is going online and surfing Facebook. This can be done in comfy clothes, with your favorite beverage hand and music in the background, all from the comfort of your own home. Facebook is more than just people posting political rants and pictures of their kids. Some of the best educators on earth are on Facebook sharing their knowledge for free. Below are some of my favorite education Facebook Groups. I encourage you to check them out.

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EDUMatch: This group is moderated by the amazing Sarah Thomas. Sarah is a regional edtech coordinator from the Washington, DC area. EDUMatch is a network designed to "match" you with like minded educators to build your PLN. In addition, EDUMatch publishes some amazing education books. Click here to find the EDUMatch group on Facebook.

Teachers Using Google Suite for Education: This group was created to be a forum for questions and sharing ideas if you are using Google Suite for Education tools. If you have a question or idea for a way to use tools such as Docs, Slides, Sheets, Classroom and more, this is the place to find answers and get feedback. Click here to find the Teachers using Google Suite for Education group on Facebook.

Site Leads Connect: I may be a little biased, but this group is moderated by my wife Katherine Goyette. It is an offshoot of her Google Certified Innovator project of the same name. It is a network for instructional leaders to connect and share ideas. Principals, district level admin, coaches and more are invited to join and share insights. Contact Katherine through this group for her to do a 15 minute insight interview with you. Insight interviews are curated on the Site Leads Connect website. Click here to find Site Leads Connect on Facebook.

Facebook for Education Group: Believe it or not, Facebook has an education division called Facebook for Education. They have an app called Workplace that mimics Facebook, but is built for collaboration among colleagues at a school or district. This group is a great forum for ideas and trends in education. Click here to the Facebook for Education Group.

Future Ready Instructional Coaches: This group is a great forum for cutting edge ideas and resources for instructional coaches. If you are a new coach, this is the place for you to connect and learn. If you're an administrator, this place is a great resource for ideas on how to maximize the effectiveness of your coaches. If you're a teacher, and you are looking how to better connect with your coach, this is a place for you. Click here to find the Future Ready Instructional Coaches Group on Facebook. 

CUE (Computer Using Educators): CUE is one of the largest edtech communities in the nation. The annual spring conference in Palm Springs attracts 6-7 thousand educators from across the nation. At this event, you can learn from some of the biggest names in edtech. CUE is more than just a conference. It is a community of innovative, life-long learners committed to improving pedagogy. CUE frequently holds district or school sized events called CUE Rockstar Camps in addition to local affiliates hosting annual symposiums and tech fests. If you're interested in CUE, join this group and find your local affiliate at Click here to find CUE on Facebook.

The Suite Talk: If you're looking for cutting edge ideas for using Google Suite for Education, this is the place. This page is hosted by the innovative Kim Mattina. Kim also hosts the Suite Talk Podcast. On the podcast and the Facebook group, amazing educators are sharing their best practices and coolest ideas using GSuite. This is a private group so you will have to ask the join. Click here to find the Suite Talk on Facebook.

EdTechTeam Global Community: EdTechTeam is a worldwide organization for professional learning for edtech and more. EdTechTeam hosts summits all year across the planet. You can find them and their stable of world renowned presenters at most big conferences. Join this community to connect with some of the brightest minds in edtech. Click here to find the EdTechTeam Global Community on Facebook.

This list is just some of my favorite groups. There are tons more covering all subject areas and grade levels. My list doesn't even scratch the surface. Take some time this winter break, find the groups that interest you and build that network. Like Joe Marquez says, "Education is a team sport." We are meant to work together, not in silos.