Month: November 2015

Google Chrome Tips and Tricks

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

Google Chrome: By far the superior internet browser for a variety of reasons. With streamlined connectivity with the Google Apps, it is fast and does everything I want. It syncs across devices, saves my passwords, and offers awesome extensions (Don’t worry, multiple blog post will be dedicated to some of these amazing extensions!).  How can we take the best browser available and make it even better? It’s really as easy as taking a few different shortcuts, tips, and hacks to make the functionality even more user-friendly!



  • chrome://flags/ – These experimental features are buried deep within Chrome.  They may change, break, or disappear at any time. These features cover everything from smooth scrolling within a page to muting the automatic audio on websites.  It’s a vast list, but you always find a few gems that make life easier!


Chrome Flags   


  • Ctrl + shift + T – We’ve all done it: moved along too quickly and closed out a tab that we didn’t mean to.  Never fear, you’re safe.  
  • Pin Tabs – Right click any tab and select “Pin Tab” to pin it. Chrome will remember the tabs you pinned and open them next time you open Chrome. Chrome will arrange pinned tabs to the extreme left of your Chrome window, condensing the space of those tabs you use most. I pin Mail, Drive or other pages I visit every time Chrome is open, especially when in the classroom. Create multiple profiles for a work account and personal account to keep your browser neat.                          pinned
  • Omnibox Calculator – Basic calculations are a breeze with the omnibar.  Put any basic algorithm in the omnibox and you’re ready to fly.  No need to open another program or extension, just open a new tab and you’re ready to go.                         
        • calculatorchrome


Ctrl + ‘a number’ – Quickly toggle between tabs by using this shortcut. Especially when using pins, I use this to quickly move between tabs that I use all the time.




The Rise of the “Edupreneur”


by Howard Chan @socratech 

If you ever have a moment to watch Yong Zhao speak, this is a worthwhile ISTE keynote he delivered back in 2012 and still very relevant today: After reflecting on Dr. Yong Zhao’s message, it reinvigorated a concept I hold dearly in this 21st century innovation economy: taking ownership of your own professional career. To quote Dr. Zhao from his keynote, “you don’t wait for someone to create a job for you, you go out there to create a job for yourself.”

Over the past few years, I have met many innovative teachers who are expanding their own horizons and venturing beyond the classroom. Most recently, I have observed teachers who have written books, produced educational videos, created hashtags used by many, launched #edcamps, designed apps for iPads, garnered thousands of Twitter followers, developed global online conferences and continue to facilitate professional development around the world. Some teachers are considered “Rockstars” and have become professional icons to many; in fact, I bet some are making more money on the speaking circuit than they probably made as a teacher back at their school district. I certainly know a few teachers who completely left the classroom and branched into independent consulting. It has become an entrepreneurial endeavor based from their classroom experiences and I couldn’t be more happier for them. 

It is important to note that many are not driven by the money (being an entrepreneur doesn’t always equate to monetary gain), although I am sure a little side money doesn’t hurt. As an educator, I am excited, encouraged and support how these teachers have branded themselves and evolved their career to something bigger than they have probably imagined going into this field. As Dr. Yong Zhao highlighted in his keynote, it is the rise of the creative class and people with unique specialized skills. The talented educators I have met are as creative and business savvy as anyone, and have pragmatic skills of authentic practitioners with the entrepreneurial spirit of sharing in “branded” ways (whether driven by $ or not). It has been more than three years since this keynote, I can safely say the spirit of Zhao’s message is embodied in the rise of what many are calling the “Edupreneur.” How’s that for creating a job for yourself?

Evolving Role of the K12 Technology Department

by Howard Chan @socratech 

There was a time when K12 technology departments were just seen as technical support, district compliance (also known as “control”) and managers of data information. It was the office filled with “geeks” who knew very little about teaching and preferred to speak in bits and bytes. It was often treated as a separate entity responsible for making sure equipment was working properly and data was protected from security breaches. The thought of the technology department making decisions on any academic programs was as far fetch as teachers making decisions on technology infrastructure. How times have changed…

In recent years, those ideas above have quickly merged into what I call Education Information Technology, the concept of blending technology with education to support next generation schools and classrooms. The thought of separate entities are quickly becoming the old model, where nowadays, decisions have to be collaboratively made between academics and technologists. Technology decision makers have a crucial role in evolving the educational model for our schools and districts. With the proliferation of online tools, makerspaces, data dashboards and interactive technologies in the classroom, technology decision makers are dealing with far more implications than firewalls and routers. Not only are network infrastructure considerations critical to support the classrooms, but the instructional tools that teachers are using are leaning towards the technology pendulum at exponential rates.

The tech architecture now has multiple layers to design and evaluate, and requires a more comprehensive systems perspective from our technologists. Technologists are now asked to understand how instructional technologies such as learning management systems, social media sites, 3D printers, and video cameras are integrating with information data systems and network infrastructure. Technologists are now asked to balance a fair acceptable use policy to answer security and safety concerns, while providing teachers and students open access to the Internet and social networks. Technologists are now asked to filter student data points and design integrated systems to provide teachers dashboards of information. Technologists are now asked to evaluate digital tools and online curriculum to make decisions on blended learning models. Technologists are now asked to understand parent, student and teacher needs for end-user devices to support 21st century learning. Technologists are now asked to facilitate professional development and develop a culture around 21st century learning. It almost naturally brings up the question…

Do our technology decision makers need an education background to support the next generation school? From my experience, I have seen some amazing teachers handle all services in the technology department, and I have also seen amazing IT folks with compassion and understanding of educator needs. No matter what spectrum the tech decision makers come from, the head of technology need a new set of skills and framework to tackle the rapidly evolving 21st century learning environment.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 8.32.02 PMCoSN has established a framework called Essential Skills of the K12 CTO, which provides a comprehensive list of skills the next generation technologists need to be a “viable” decision maker for schools. I was very happy to see a framework parallel to what I have been thinking these past few years and excited to learn more about the program. The framework breaks down into 10 specific skill areas in the three domains of Leadership and Vision, Understanding the Educational Environment, and Managing Technology & Support Resources. Within each category, there are subcategories that CTO and technology decision makers will need to be a successful and critical member of the district/school community. While I am envious that I didn’t come up with this framework, I am excited that my ideas matched with a credible organization’s idea of a successful technologist.

Let Google Slides Be Your Website Mockup

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

From Skitch

Using a website is such a great way for students to showcase their learning to a large audience. Sharing and posting a link allows them an opportunity to create, curate and elaborate on their learning.  Yet anyone that has done a website can attest that they are time consuming. Especially when dealing with the younger grades, even the site template can eat up countless hours.

But using Google Slides and Docs ( really any of the Google Apps), you can quickly publish work to the web! Start by having students create a Google Slide. This will act as the Home Page for the student created work.  You can embed videos, images and links throughout the presentation. MFrom Skitchultiple pages can be added to organize information as you would any website. You will then publish this presentation to the web. Be sure that when you do publish, you do not check the start on load box. From here, you have yourself a shareable URL that can be quickly revised through Google Drive.  Any change that students make to the original Slide will be updated automatically. Just like all Google Apps, this also allows for easy collaboration between students.

In order to advance between pages, viewers will use the next slide buttons at the bottom of the slide. Just like a website, you can add buttons and links to specific pages if you’d prefer to haFrom Skitch (1)ve a more ‘website-like’ navigation.  If they hit the play button, the web presentation will play like a slideshow, which is why I generally change the auto advance slide to 1 minute (the maximum duration possible).  You can also add this feature with Google Docs, which allows student to attach their own writing or research to a presentation. Simply follow the Publish to the Web process, and attach the link as a hyperlink within the original presentation. Finish it off by having the students create a TinyURL, which I prefer because of the ability to create a custom alias, or, and you’re ready to share with the world!

Autocrat and Mad Libs

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

Autocrat is a document merge add-on for Google Sheets. I’ve always found it useful when sending out personalized emails and pdfs, as it takes data from any spreadsheet and populates it into a Doc template. Any information from a Google Sheet can be quickly inserted into a template. In using tags (<<tag>>), Autocrat is great for sending out conference reminder letters and helping students with paragraph or essay structure.  But what about those more exciting activities?  Who doesn’t like Mad Libs?!

merge templateStart by setting up a Google Doc template using <<tags>> to match and pull information from a spreadsheet that was generated from Form data. You next will create a Create a Google Form that includes questions that will populate the merge tags in the Google Document. You will need to be sure that the Google Form matches EXACTLY what you putExample form as tags in the Document.  As the data is compiled into a Sheet, those Headers in the Sheet will be used to match the data to the Document. Also, be sure that you’ve asked for email in a question on your Form.

Install the add-on Autocrat which automatically sends the responses from the Form spreadsheet and replaces the merge tags with the Form responses.  Just select the template that you are using and Autocrat walks you through the rest! Use the $tag placeholders to help add a personalized name to the title and email and press merge.example lettermerged data

FREE Download: I Am Going To Like School…


I Am Going To Like School…

by Howard Chan

Illustrated by Richard Bates

I Am Going To Like School…is an illustrated poem inspired by the educators who are re-imagining the learning experience for our students around the world. You can now download your own free eBook copy for a limited time. We hope you enjoy it and thank you for sharing the link with your fellow educators! #2LikeSchool You can also download the original poem illustrated by my daughters here:

Free Download:

Use Flubaroo to Make Tests a Breeze!

by Joe Kemery: @Mr_Kemery

Grading, assessing, evaluating: they’re an integral part of the job. Unfortunately, the time needed to grade \ simpler assignments are often huge time consumers. What if our time could be redirected towards analyzing the information, pouring over studentquiz data and informing our future instruction.

Thanks to Flubaroo, we no longer have to direct our efforts into the less glamorous parts of teaching. Although it has been around for years, I still am amazed at how many people find this quick tool to be the biggest take-away from a training or inservice. Flubaroo is a quick and easy Sheets add-on that can correct multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. There are so many ways that using Flubaroo makes our lives easier: It is free, saves times, automatically emails students feedback, is easily adaptable across grade levels, calculates basic averages, and flags questions with a high number of incorrect responses. 

Most importantly, Flubaroo really is that easy. Using gradedocumentGoogle Forms, create an assignment that is multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank questions: including images, videos and any other elements into your Form. Make sure that any graded response has a clear answer! Once the Form is complete, you need to take your own assessment.  Be sure you enter TEST KEY, or some other easily identifiable phrase.

From here, you’re ready to have  students take the assessment.  Once all the data has been gathered into a Sheet, run the Flubaroo add-on.  You’ll be able to identify the correct answer document and assign point values to individual responses. Just select the TEST KEY and Flubaroo takes care of the rest.  All data will be automatically added to a new tab labeled Grades.  It will provide you with individual student scores, flagging answers that more than 60% of students answered incorrectly and highlighting those lowest performing students– a huge asset for remedial instruction.

And there you have it! Flubaroo’s user guide provides step-by-step instructions, and their demo video gives a good overview of what the tool can do.