Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Keep Learners on Task with Focused Browsing

Hapara has recently rolled out great updates designed to “refocus learners on the task at hand.”  Their updated include Open Tabs, Focused Browsing, Scheduled Browsing, and Viewing Browsing in Progress.
This blog post will focus on Focused Browsing.  See what I did there?
Focused browsing allows teachers to focus their students on a specific site for a specific amount of time.  While focused browsing is active, students cannot open new tabs, go to a different tab, or browse new/other URLs.  This helps them stay on task without getting distracted.
This is ideal for online assessments.  If you give quizzes, tests, or other timed exercises online, now you can eliminate the worry of cheating and plagiarism simply with focused browsing.  If you’ve thought about online assessments but weren’t sure how to overcome the worry, focused browsing is the way to go.
There are several options for customization in focused browsing:
  • Allow students to go anywhere within a particular site or limit them to only select pages
  • Time limits up to 3 hours
  • What happens at the end of the session, whether you close the pages or keep them open

If you're intrigued by focused browsing, give it a try in class! And then click here to see the rest of Hapara’s new updates.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

WR's Hour of Code

This week is National Computer Science Week.  As part of this, hosts the Hour of Code, where they encourage everyone to learn a little bit of code.

So, with that in mind, I thought we could celebrate #throwbackthursday a little early and throw all the way back to 1999, when I took a high school coding class at Bishop Neumann High School.  In the class, we learned msdos and html (those were simpler times).  Html has evolved and become more complex, with xhtml and html5...blah blah blah.

Anyway, basic HTML is not that complicated.  You just need to start the code by using the <> blocks and then tell it to end by using </> blocks.  For example, <html> begins the block and </html> ends the block.

Then there are basic other commands, such as:
<head> and </head> create a header
<body> and </body> (Everything you want to appear on the page must be between these blocks.)
<br> which inserts a line break
<p> which inserts a paragraph (or two line) break
<a href=””> and </a>which inserts a link
<center> and </center> which places the text in the center
<hr> puts a horizontal line across the page
<body bgcolor=””> changes the background color of the page
<body text=””> changes the text color of the page

You can also use hex values to determine a color, which is identifying colors by a combination of six digits.  Here are some hex values.

There are many other commands and you can find some of them here.

So for example, if I wanted something to look like this:

Welcome to Warrior Run Hour of Code!

Are you learning about the basics of html today?
Visit the blog for more information.

The code would look like this.

You can use a site like practiceboard to write code and check the output of the code.
I also recommend the following sites to learn more about coding in general, including HTML.

So here’s the fun part.  Below is a small amount of text and I want you to use the code and the practiceboard website to type out the code.  If you email me the code and it is correct, you will be entered into a drawing for a $10 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.  Everyone knows that teachers run on Dunkin.  :)

Try this:

I learned how to code with HTML!

Please enter me into the drawing for the Dunkin’ gift card.  Thanks!


That’s it!  The due date is December 15, 2017.  Email me the link to your practiceboard. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Making Gmail More Efficient

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your Gmail account, I assure you, you’re not alone.  We all receive a bazillion emails all day long, from colleagues, students, administrators, advertisers, organizations… so. many. emails.  But we need email to communicate.

So today’s blog post is how to make Gmail less overwhelming and more efficient.

Turn Off Sharing Notifications
Our students share Google files with us daily.  But it’s frustrating to receive an email for each file every time a student shares something.  It can clog up our inboxes real quick.  To combat that, ask your students to turn off sharing notifications when they send you a file.  The file will still land in your Shared folder, but you will not receive an email notification.

Archive vs. Delete
I love getting rid of things.  Love it!  But I also like to save things just in case I need them later.  This is when you should archive emails, instead of deleting them.  Archiving allows you to clear your inbox (woo hoo!) without the anxiety of “what if.”  As Google says, “archiving removes messages from your inbox, but keeps them in your account so that you can always find them later.”  Bingo!  So the next time you’re waffling over an email, click the archive button instead the trash button.  Benefits to this include:
  • You’ll still have the email under the All Mail label, so you can search for it easily.
  • If someone replies to that email, it will come back to your inbox.
  • Your inbox is clear!

Inbox Setup
There are several ways to set up your inbox.  To change to one or the other, click “Settings,” under Settings .  Then choose “Inbox.”

  1. By default, Gmail gives your inbox tabs, like Primary, Social, Forums, etc.  Your emails will be auto-sorted into these categories, or you can sort them yourself.  Some people really like this, as Google sorts through things for you; it keeps your “real” emails under the Primary tab, then sorts coupons under Promotions and Facebook under Social.  To change/add/delete any tabs, click “Configure Inbox,” under Settings .
  1. Choosing “Unread first” will separate your emails into two categories: “unread” at the top, and “everything else” at the bottom.  I like to use my inbox as a “to do list,” so this works best for me.
  1. Three more layout options include “important first,” “starred first,” and “priority inbox.”  They are variations on the “unread/everything else” layout, but allow for more customization.

Email is a necessity but can be overwhelming and/or frustrating.  But Gmail can be made more efficient through a few simple tweaks, like asking your students to turn off sharing notifications, archiving emails, or choosing a different inbox layout.  Don’t let a clogged inbox keep you down!

Even More Helpful Stuff

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Flipgrid for giving every student a voice

While graphic organizers, exit tickets, and worksheets are a standard in every classroom, it is not the only way to get input from kids.  Google Classroom, Kahoot, Quizizz, and other tech tools can collect discussion answers, documents, or quick answers from students.  A tool I recently learned about, Flipgrid, is set up to accept picture, text or video responses to a prompt.  Students can see and comment on the posts of others as well.  Here’s how it might work:

  1. Teacher creates a “grid” related to a specific subject or grade level such as social studies, 3rd grade, or HS art.
  2. Teacher creates a topic related to their grid subject, such as volcanoes, narratives, or solving two step equations.  This should ask a question or require input from students.  For example, it could be, “Tell me a story using time order words,” or “How do you solve this equation?”
  3. Teacher shares the topic to the students and students give their input as a picture, text, and/or video.  That way they can talk through their learning, speaking out loud about how to complete a task, or they can show and talk about their results.
  4. Students can view and comment on their classmates’ submissions using emojis similar to Facebook.

There is an iPad app, but you can also record from the chromebook.  When you click the + to add a response, it will prompt you to use your camera and microphone.

Once they allow these, then students will click the camera to record.

It will prompt the students to give their names and emails.  I would recommend you just have them put their first name and last initial.  Or just initials.  Once they post, they can view the posts from others.

You can contribute to my example here.

This could be a great first step to making great digital citizens who know how to use the tech resources for their learning.  If you have questions or need help, let me know and I’d be happy to stop by!

Monday, November 6, 2017


As a parent of two who recently put passcodes on her children’s iPads, I am aware of the pull that technology offers to children.  As a person who has tried to put most of the content I need on a day-to-day basis on my phone so it’s always accessible, I understand how for some of us the device has become a constant distraction.

With that in mind, I offer some ways to gain, keep, or re-focus, whether you are trying to do this with your students or for yourself. This means using a device AND staying on task!

For students, secondary teachers can make use of Hapara to focus a student’s browsing by only allowing them to visit certain sites for a determined period of time.  Teachers using iPads can turn on guided access to limit the areas on the screen with which students can interact.  Having your students use their computers with their backs to you (and their screens facing you) can also help to make sure they are on task.  Ultimately, though, it’s acceptable and healthy to put away the devices and have a face-to-face conversation.

For teachers, there are several apps that will remind you to take a brain break: StandApp, Stand Up!, and Move It.  If you and your students are spending all period sitting at your desk, working on research, a presentation, or otherwise focusing on a task, it will be beneficial to you to get up and move, even if only for a stretch.  A Stanford study finds that walking is good for creativity, so it may be a good idea to work this into the lesson.  

Another aspect related to this are desk styles.  We have traditional table and chair, but now there are standing desks, fidget bands, yoga balls, node chairs, and the list goes on.  As someone who works with Greg, I can definitely see how these might be helpful!  :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Vocaroo for Voices

Vocaroo is a simple online tool for recording and sharing audio files across the internet.  After allowing your microphone, it literally takes two clicks to create a recording.  After that, the file is easily shared with an auto-generated link, or can be downloaded as an MP3, or get a QR code.  Since it is a web-based services, it's a natural friend to Chromebook users.  And, since it is web-based, students and teachers can use Vocaroo anywhere!

Ways for Students to Use Vocaroo

  • Students at all levels can practice their reading and speaking skills.  Beginning readers might find it helpful to hear what they sound like reading a book and following along.  Older students could read drafts of essays aloud to catch mistakes.
  • Practice presentations before giving them.
  • Music students can share songs they sing or play with teachers and other students.
  • Foreign language students can practice their fluency.
  • Peer-to-peer feedback.  Students could even paste the link in a comment on a Google Doc or Slides.
Ways for Teachers to Use Vocaroo
  • Leave instructions for your students when you have a substitute.
  • Record a summary of what you did during the day and post the link of your website or Sapphire page.  (You could have a student do this too!)
  • Give feedback to individual students.  (I know my hand cramps up after writing a lot, this might be a new way to give students feedback on a paper or larger assignment.)

How to Use Vocaroo

  • Go to
  • Click the red button to record
  • Click the green check mark to allow the service to use microphone
  • Click to tell the browser to allow the microphone
  • Click to stop recording
  • Now you have the option to retry, listen, or save.  "Retry" will delete and start over, "listen" will allow you to listen to your recording, and "click to save" will give you options.
  • This is what you see when you "click to save:"
  • You can simply copy the link and send that wherever you want.  Or you can download as an MP3 to be used later, email it directly from the site, or create a QR code.
A quick tip: If you decide to have your students create recordings and share them with you, it would help to organize them with a Google Form.  You can create a simple form with a place to put their name and a place to paste the link, and then Google Form creates a spreadsheet with that information.  That way it's all in one place for you to access at your convenience.  Click here to get started with Google Forms.