You've often heard my ranting and raving about the great things done for edtech and education from the amazing people at the EdTechTeam. I was accepted to present at their Colorado Summit in Louisville, CO this November and joined 600+ educators for a weekend of fun and learning. It was truly an awesome event and a bit overwhelming with all the participants and presenters to hone in on the best tips, tricks, and practices to take-away and back to my teachers. Here is a list of the amazing things I gained from this incredible two day event:
1. Chromebooks are the answer! - I'm sure this could spark a lengthy debate on which device is the most effective for student learning and there can be a case made for a variety of devices depending on environment, but the more I speak with other educators in a variety of situations the Chromebook continually seems to rise to the top. In my district we have been steadily moving mostly to Chromebooks for students, but still have a mix of devices including iPads, iTouches, Android tablets, Macs and PCs. The Chromebooks are a breeze to manage using the Admin console and the simplified interface of the Chrome OS lets students get just about everything and anything done within the GSuite workflow.
Once you do take the plunge into the world of Chromebooks there are plenty of great tips you and your students can use to maximize your experience. I sat in on a session with Sean Williams (@seani) who walked us through some of the useful shortcuts, apps/add-ons, and extensions. Review his slideshow HERE, but some of my favorite are:
Shortcuts - save yourself some time and sanity with these keyboard shortcuts.
Ctrl+Shift+T - Open your last closed tab(s)
Ctrl+Windows Switcher - screenshot
Ctrl+Shift+Windows Switcher - selected area screenshot
Ctrl+Shift+? - Pull up a map of all the available keyboard shortcuts and what they do.
Extensions - get the most out of your Chrome experience with great extensions to improve you and your students workflow.
Extensity - as you continue to add more and more extensions you may notice some issues with performance.
Too Long; Didn't Read (TLDR) - this extension has been out for a while, but seemed to take a hiatus and wasn't working for the past year or more for most users. Well it's back, and I urge you to use it with your students to get great short summaries of any website and assist with their reading and summary skills.
Add-ons and Apps - when working in a Chrome environment it's always key to find useful apps or add-ons to allow you and your students to do more. Apps are currently being phased out in the Chrome environment so they are essentially websites again.
Equatio - allows you to insert complex equations into most GSuite tools. Use voice, handwriting (touchscreen required), or keyboard input. NOW FREE FOR TEACHERS!!
Draftback - add-on for Google docs that enhances the existing 'version history' that can be used to see past revisions and revert back to those versions. Great way for you and your students to watch the evolution of the writing process and reflect on practice.
Desmos - a powerful graphing, web-based, calculator that can be used individually or as a class with teacher-led activities and instruction.
Google Keep - turn your sticky notes digital! Create to do lists, notes, and reminders that can be shared with others, organized, and inserted into Google docs.
2. Bitmojis and Google Slides - There are a ton of great uses for Google Slides in the classroom and I was blown away by Sylvia Duckworth's (@sylviaduckworth) presentation on tying together the Chrome extension Bitmoji and Google Slides to create fun comics for teachers or students to use. Many of us have already dipped in the Bitmoji world via Snapchat, but utilizing the Chrome extension is a great way to use these fun comics to create meaningful digital literature for both students and teachers to express themselves. Check out Sylvia's presentation HERE and her website (sylviaduckworth.com) for more awesome ideas and how to get started.
3. Sketchnoting - Another great topic championed by Sylvia Duckworth. She gave several presentations during the summit to help people get started and advance their skills in how sketchnoting can work in the educational environment. As we do move to an more digital environment for students it's important to still provide students with tactile ways to record and remember information. There often seems to be a disconnect if students simply type down their notes and we are getting closer with the tools available to live comfortably in both worlds. I cannot do the topic justice in comparison to Sylvia so please check out her presentation HERE, blogpost HERE, and her website for more information on how to find the best tools and strategies for you.
We were also introduced to Rocketbook which combines the best of both worlds when it comes to taking notes and keeping digital records. Sketchnote, doodle, draw, scribble, etc... and use an app on your phone to send your documents to a variety of locations all at once. Very cool tool I recommend checking out.
My favorite take-away was the WolframAlpha add-on which essentially puts the power of Siri into your Google Sheets. Insert questions into your sheet and use the add-on to quickly grab the answers. This is obviously the most simplistic use of this amazingly powerful add-on so add this to your Sheets and start playing.
So there you have some of my biggest takeaways from the incredible Colorado Summit put on by the EdtechTeam. Alas, I am only one man so there was no doubt a plethora of other great things happening that I couldn't get to throughout the Summit. I've said it in previous posts, but if you are able be sure to make the time to go check out a summit near you. The information, connections, recharging, and excitment gained from this two day event is incredible. Feel free to comment on any of the topics above or any great ideas you've taken away from this or another EdtechTeam Summit.
Director of Technology for Traverse City Area Public Schools. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former Tech Integration Specialist and 4th grade teacher at Aspen School District and Spartan for life! Go Green!