Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Useful ways to incorporate the Chromebook or iPad Webcam

Chromebooks and iPads come with a built-in webcam that your students may or may not have discovered and tried out some selfies.  There are more useful and educational ways to incorporate it in the classroom, some of which our awesome teachers are already using.  Try out some of these ideas:

Useful for
Journaling / Blogging / Scrapbooking
Art, English / Language Arts, History
Video conferencing
Author visits, interviewing specialists in a field, connecting with other classrooms from another school
Steps / stages in a process, such as a science experiment
Science, English / Language Arts, Art, Math
Document camera
All classes
Making screencasts and instructional videos for our students (Flipped Classrooms, included)
All classes

The webcam doesn’t have to be your webcam.  There are lots of webcams around the internet that record footage that can be used and discussed in your classroom!  Just imagine a lesson where students observe clownfish and document their symbiotic relationship with anemones.

If you need more ideas or need help getting started, contact your librarian!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Podcasts 101

Podcasts have been mentioned a few times recently.  Classes at both the middle and high school have incorporated podcasts into lessons and projects.  In order to utilize them effectively (or at all), it is important to understand what they are and how we can use them with our students.

Podcasts are audio stories created to share ideas, presentations, or music.  They originated alongside traditional blogging, so podcasts are sometimes referred to as “audioblogging.”  In general, one creates a podcast by recording audio, editing it, and distributing it online.  These audio files can then be downloaded or streamed by an audience.  

Why podcast?  (These are just some of the benefits.)
  • It allows for another level of communication between students and teachers
  • Sometimes students are more expressive when speaking than writing
  • Adding audio to your instruction meets the needs of more learning styles

How are podcasts different?
Podcasts are different than screencasts and videos because it is JUST AUDIO; screencasts and videos include audio AND visual.

How do podcasts get made?
There are many web tools for recording and sharing audio.  Click here for an extensive list of options, which can be organized by device and cost.  This spring, some teachers have been using SoundCloud to facilitate projects involving podcasts.  The benefits of this particular service are:
  • Single sign-on with Google accounts
  • Quick upload time
  • Ability to post privately
For more information on SoundCloud:

What can podcasts be used for?

How about an example?
Sure! Over the past few days, the 12th grade English classes have been working on podcasts as a final assessment for Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.  Their task was to prove the existence of a theme of their choice within the essay; they needed textual evidence and modern parallels.  The final product was a podcast, some examples of which are below.

Teacher Testimonials

I am really impressed with the level of analysis and creativity that my students put into their podcasts. Their final products showed how well they worked in a collaborative environment, and they were able to talk about their ideas and develop them in a way that showed they were synthesizing the information and relating it to modern day ideas. More importantly, they are now able to extend their learning and listen to other podcasts and consider their peer's viewpoints.  --Mrs. Megan Seymore

What I like best about this is that by giving students choices and making it real-world, I saw very high levels of student engagement, especially among students who haven't always been engaged.  --Mrs. Krysta Travelpiece

If you would like to integrate podcasts into your classroom, just contact your building librarian!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Google Slides as more than just a presentation

Google Slides is sometimes called the Google version of Powerpoint, but if you have used both these tools in the classroom, you know that while the basic idea may be the same, their overall uses are drastically different.

Microsoft Powerpoint
Google Slides
  • Allows for creation of a slideshow presentation with transitions, sounds, animations, etc.
  • Allows for insertion of sounds, video, hyperlinks and autoplay
  • Only available to create with a PC running Microsoft Office
  • Has a more robust set of options for advanced users
  • When work collaboratively, only the original can be created on ONE computer at a time
  • Allows for creation of a slideshow presentation with transitions, animations, videos, autoplay, etc.
  • Can be shared via a link
  • Saves changes automatically
  • Can be worked on collaboratively by several teachers or students
  • Allows for viewing and conversion of Powerpoints to Google Slides (but this can be a nightmare! - it’s not a perfect conversion)
  • Premade templates can be found at Slides Carnival

While we do not want to re-create the wheel, it can be frustrating to spend the time converting old Powerpoints to Google Slides, only to have to fix every slide.  Consider other options, such as pre-made game templates - I like this Jeopardy one, to save you time.

Google Slides can also be used in several collaborative ways that Powerpoint cannot.  Encourage your students to use Google Slides to show what they have learned, but also along with another web 2.0 tool, such as Movenote.

Still struggling for ideas?  Consider these:
  1. Use Google Slides as a review for an upcoming quiz or test
  2. Have students create a comic strip to review a concept
  3. Link to a Google Form at the end of a slideshow to check for understanding
  4. Let students go through the slideshow individually on a device and insert a YouTube video directly into the slideshow for students to watch and reflect on what they learned

If you want to get started, but want a helping hand, talk to your building librarian!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Get Started with Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts functions like chat (think instant messenger) and video chat (like Skype or FaceTime).  You can use it on ANY device - desktop, laptop, tablet, phone.  Not only can this web tool make your life easier, you can use it in your classroom with your students and colleagues as well.


Everyone likes when products make life easier, right?  I mean, I do.  Google Hangouts is one my favorite tools for communication and collaboration.  

  • Contact colleagues without sending yet another email.  This comes in handy for quick questions, tracking down a student, or making decisions, among other things.
  • Join a meeting virtually that you’re unable to attend in person. You can do this via the chat feature OR the video call feature.
  • Group conversations more efficiently.  Think about clubs/groups co-advisors, school or district teams; students can also use it for group work in and outside of school


Beyond making lives easier, Google Hangouts is an incredible tool to use in the classroom as well.  Think student collaboration, guest speakers, virtual field trips… the list goes on!


To get started using Google Hangouts, you’ll need to find your preferred method of access (there are several).  You can…

For future reference, bookmark this blog post or download Google’s Cheat Sheet.