Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mindfulness Apps

On a recent GCISD Professional Learning Day, I had the opportunity to attend a session on Mindfulness presented by CHHS Counselor, Erin Booher. We began by participating in a mindful meditation exercise that could be used to calm a class before diving into the objectives for the day. During the presentation, Erin shared a list of mindfulness apps for both Android & iOS. Since GCISD students primarily have iOS, Mac, and Windows devices, here are a few recommendations that are accessible to our students:

Settle Your Glitter by the Momentous Institute allows children to name their feeling (mad, sad, silly, or worried), how strong their feelings are, then shake the device to start the glitter moving. Students will then focus on their breathing while the virtual glitter settles on the screen. At the end, they get to choose whether or not they or ready to settle or repeat the exercise.

Calm is an iOS app or can be accessed via browser by going to If you're a K-12 educator, fill out the form on the Calm website at to get free access to Calm's paid subscription service. 

A 4th-grade student actually told me about the Aquarium Live Free app. He said, "you just watch a bunch of fish swim around and it's really calming."

As we wrap up the school year and head into summer, give one of these apps a try and let us know how it works!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Padlet is a beneficial tool for students and teachers to use in a variety of ways. Padlet is both an app and site which teachers and students can use to display ideas, images, video, and more with a collaborative platform. Previously Padlet has been a topic of posts on our blog which you can refer to here: original post and the Padlet app post.  For directions on how to use Padlet, see this Padlet.

Padlet displays in real-time, which is both exciting and frustrating at times. Recently, Padlet began providing a new feature to prevent the displays from adjusting until you decide, which is called Focus Mode. The following will pop-up and you select REFRESH and the boxes will move around from other contributors.

Often times, Padlet is used to brainstorm or collaborate individually, in a small group, or a whole group. Collaboration can connect students with others beyond the classroom walls. In addition, Padlet can be used to create a Flowchart by connecting the boxes with arrows. There is an option to label the arrows to define the flow of the information.

For the above post in Flowchart format via Padlet, please view here.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Force a Copy for GSuite

Google Classroom has made it easy for students to have their own copy of a teacher's Google Doc. However, you can also force anyone to make a copy of a Google doc by navigating to the URL and changing "edit" at the end of the URL to "copy" and then sharing that link.
In order for the person receiving your link to make a copy without needing your permission, make sure that your share settings are set that anyone in GCISD with the link can view your original document if you are only sharing within the district, or anyone with the link can view if you are sharing outside of the GCISD domain. 

Another use of forcing a copy is with surveys or quizzes. Many teachers are using Forms to collect survey data for student voice, quizzes, and more. If a teacher then shares his/her survey with another teacher, all of the results will populate in the same Google Sheet. Here comes force a copy to the rescue! In Forms, click the three buttons to the right of the "Send" button and select "Add Collaborators"
Change the share settings to anyone with the link can edit and select "Done"

Do not copy the share URL on this page!  

After selecting "Done", navigate to the URL bar at the top of the page and change "edit" to "copy" and then copy this new URL to share. The recipient of the URL will be forced to make their own copy of the form and they will be the owner of the data that is gathered using the form.

That just made sharing our Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Forms easier!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Chrome Profiles and YouTube Checker for Student Viewing Rights

Within the district, teachers are able to view YouTube videos that are restricted for student access. However, in the past, it has been difficult to determine if the video would be open or restricted for the student.  Thanks to GCISD Technology Services, a new Google profile has been created for the sole purpose of providing teachers a way to check student access to videos and then submit a request to have a video unblocked if students do not have access.  The profile email address is (please see your campus liaison or an instructional coach for the password to this account). 

Between a work Google account, YouTube checker Google account, and personal Google accounts, it can be tricky to determine which account you are logged into if you have not set up Chrome profiles. You can create multiple Chrome profiles and easily switch between accounts without having to sign out of either account!  Below is a screencast on creating multiple profiles (

If you prefer to see a step-by-step guide, here are instructions on how to set up a second Chrome profile for the GCISD YouTube Checker account but could also be used for creating profiles for any other email account. If you would prefer a larger copy to save or view, you can access a PDF of instructions here.

If a video cannot play when logged into the YouTube checker account, you can submit a work order to have the video approved at

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


While searching for engaging ways to integrate technology with her students, Tara Martin (@TaraMartinEDU) created #BookSnaps. Tara's idea was to use a platform her students were already familiar with to share about stories they were reading. Now, #BookSnaps have developed into so much more!

BookSnaps are fun for learners of all ages and can be used with a variety of apps. Our team recommends the following apps:

*iPad apps: Draw and Tell HD, PicCollageKids, Doceri, Shadow Puppet, ChatterPixKids, Seesaw

*Chromebooks/Laptops: Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Draw

For more information on How To create a #BookSnap, view Tara's blog post here.

Students can use #BookSnaps to identify words, make connections, describe vocabulary terms, locate topics in Grammar, identify and describe story elements, share their thinking with connections from the text, and more!

Students use #BookSnaps to
 identify vocabulary words.

Students use #BookSnaps
 identify topics in Grammar.

Students use #BookSnaps to
identify and explain story elements.

Students use #BookSnaps to tell the main idea
plus connect to other content area skills.
Students use #BookSnaps to
 identify connections to the story.

Students use #BookSnaps
 to define vocabulary.
Students use #BookSnaps
to define vocabulary.

Students can share important information or describe their work using #BookSnaps. These can provide a snapshot into the minds and hearts of our students. #BookSnaps can be used for Student Voice.
Students use #BookSnaps for Student Voice.

Provide clear expectations for #BookSnaps in your classroom. Invite students to create guidelines and rubrics for effective use of #BookSnaps in the classroom.
Provide clear expectations for #BookSnaps.
Provide opportunities for students use
their creativity when making #BookSnaps.
#BookSnaps have cousins, such as #SpanishSnaps, #MathSnaps, #LabSnaps, and such.
Students can practice language
acquisition with #SpanishSnaps.
Students can identify vocabulary
or explain their learning with #MathSnaps.

Teachers can collect #BookSnaps on a class Padlet for students to view and comment:
Create a Padlet or table in Google Docs
 to hold a collection of #BookSnaps for students.
Teachers can collect #BookSnaps on a class Google Slides and students can compare and discover a variety of thoughts and opinions from their peers:
To use Google Slides for each student to insert their #BookSnaps, make a copy of this:

To use Google Slides for the class to add a Book Snap on each slide, make a copy of this:

To use Google Slides for the class to add a Math Snaps on each slide, make a copy of this:

How can your students use #BookSnaps or other snaps to share their learning?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark ( is a web app that allows students to Create a Video,  Page, or Post.  You (teacher) can login using your Google Account.  If your students are under the age of 13, the teacher will need to create one account for all students to use.  More information can be found in the Adobe Spark Edu. Guide.   Check out Claudio Zavala Jr's list of ideas for using Adobe Spark!  Thanks Kerissa Bearce for sharing!

  • To begin, select the Plus Sign. (Or select the 3 Horizontal lines on the left side of the screen. )
  • Select Create a Video, Page or Post.

  • If students are not sure where to begin, they can select a Category located at the bottom of the page.

  • For this Blog Post, I selected Create a Video.
  • I selected the Tell What Happened template or you can Start from Scratch!
  • Adobe will give some quick tips to help students get started. (1 min. video)
  • Students will now see the layout with options for creating their Video.  
  • They can add Video, Photos, Text, and create recordings. Themes, Music, and Layouts can also be decided. 
  • When ready to Share, click the Share icon at the top of the page.

  • Students can change their Title, add a Subtitle, and turn off the Author's name so it will be hidden. 
  • More options allow students to add credits to any photos they used (their personal photos and those they used from the internet).
  • Adobe Spark Branding can only be turned off with a paid account.
  • Get Noticed will allow students project to be found in a search engine and maybe shown on the Adobe Spark website. (I would recommend students select Off to keep their project unlisted.)
  • Students can also Download their video by selecting Download underneath the image. (It saves as an mp4 file.)
  • Select Create Unlisted Link. 
  • It may take a few minutes for the video to render and your link to appear.

  • Now you can copy the link and turn in through Google Classroom (if this was an assignment). 
  • Or you can select Embed, copy the code and add to your ePortfolio!

  • Students can also make changes to their video. When Share is selected, they will be able to update their link.

Note: When students select Create a Video, they will have to upload from their hard drive (Chromebook users can insert video files from Google Drive. iPad users can upload from Camera Roll).  
Adobe Spark recommends using video files with the extension: .mov, .mp4 or m4v.  
If the video is on their Google Drive, they can download to their computer then upload to Adobe Spark.  I know this seems like too many steps.  I sent feedback to AS asking them to allow adding video from Google Drive.  
But for now, you can upload (video, photos) when creating a video, search Find Photos (creative commons) or Google Photos to add to your creation. Students should always cite their sources!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Stop-Motion Animation

There are so many fantastic ways to incorporate technology into instruction that, sometimes, there are highly useful resources that we might have overlooked. One of these technological gems is stop-motion animation.  If you haven't yet used this tool, you owe it to yourself and your students to try it out. Stop-motion animation apps have been available for over five years. And the use of animation is easier than ever. Many apps are free and can be easily used by your students on their smartphones or tablets.

Heart Cycle animated GIF by students using StopMotion App. 

These kinds of apps allow students to use the cameras on their smartphones or tablets to quickly create short animated films or GIF files. Below are some examples of projects that have incorporated stop animation. 
  • There are many projects in language arts and in social studies where stop-motion animation would be an engaging way for groups of students to tell a story or re-enact a historical event. (Here is an example of students animating a children's book.) 
  • Stop-motion can also be used in math as a formative assessment (elementary example and high school example), where students work collaboratively to produce products that show their mastery over specific math concepts. 
  • Science teachers make frequent use of models in order to help students understand phenomena. The use of technology to animate such models adds a dynamic dimension that can really help students understand the complexity of the system and the sequence of events. (Protein synthesis example and body systems example and teacher lesson example

Google Keep

Recently, Google announced the integration of Google Keep with Docs. Google Keep has become a favorite for notetaking or quick "sticky" notes of things to remember.  Google Keep is available

Google Keep has many functions. You can read about them at Some of my favorite features are the ability to leave myself audio notes while on the go and to color code my notes. I'm all about color coding, so my notes match the same color organization that I use for labels in my Gmail and folders in my Google Drive.

A feature that I am committed to learn more about and utilize to make it a habit is the Reminders feature. With Reminders, you can set a location-based reminder. Is there something you need to do as soon as you get to campus? Set a reminder and when you arrive at the campus, you will receive a reminder. Do you have a to-do list that you need to accomplish? Set a time-based reminder to make sure you never miss a thing.

Sign up here to receive an email with an incredible Google Keep Cheat Sheet!

With the integration of Google Docs, it only takes two clicks to move things from your notes to a Doc. 

There are many ways for teachers and students to use Google Keep. Here are a few blog posts that can give you ideas!

How do you use Google Keep? What are some new ways you can use it in your classroom?  Comment below!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Video in Google Slides

In February, Google announced an improved feature in Slides. Previously, you could only insert video into Slides if it were a YouTube link. With the new update, users can now link videos saved in their Google Drive, as well as by searching YouTube and inserting a YouTube URL. As educators, the ability to save the time involved in loading all of your personal videos to YouTube is a benefit. However, I think there is an even greater benefit for our students creating presentations with video content. Some student-created videos simply do not belong on YouTube due to FERPA, parent permission, or other reasons. The ability to add video from Google Drive allows the students to set the video view rights to protect their privacy.

Once you select Google Drive from the Insert video field, you will see all videos in your Drive, including videos you may have in your Google Photo account (for more information on the greatness of Google Photos, see Kerissa Bearce's Google Photos blog post).

Not only do you have the ability to add your videos, but you can also set the videos to play only the specific parts of the video you would like your audience to see.  Once your video is inserted, right click and select "Video Options".

From this menu, you can select a start and end time. You can also decide if you want the video to begin playing automatically when the slide opens or whether you would like the audio to be muted when it plays. These features are available for YouTube and Google Drive videos. 

The autoplay features make it easy to set a timer on any of your slides to help facilitate classroom discussions or allow students to see how long they have for the task on the slide.  The below video shows how to do this with a few simple clicks!

How will you use the new video feature?  We would love to have your share in the comments! Now go create inspiring video content for your students' viewing pleasure!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Slides Carnival

SlidesCarnival is a pretty simple concept, but something I wanted to make sure you knew about. It's a website full of free Google Slides templates (or PowerPoint) for you to use for your presentations! If you're tired of what those platforms offer in terms of themes, this is a great way to find a few other professional looking choices. Once you're on the site, scroll to the bottom and click "View all."


You'll see several pages of templates to choose from. After clicking one, you have the following option: 

If you choose Google Slides theme, it'll open in a View Only copy. Click File>Make a copy to put a copy in your own Google Drive. You can then input your content in the templates it provides you and Poof! New themes for your presentations. This would be great for your classroom presentations or for students to have a few new options as well. I like that it sets things up in a very professional and clear manner, so that I don't even need to be good at Graphic Design for it to look fancy! Hope you enjoy.

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