Posted in Tech Tools

Five Nifty Tools for Teachers

This week while listening to my favorite 30 minute podcast…The Google Teacher Tribe, I was introduced to a new 30 minute podcast titled Shukes and Giff The Podcast.  As a tech nerd both of these ed tech podcasts are just what I need keep my mind busy on my morning commute.   Shukes and Giff is a new podcast with only 5 episodes so far (up to April 18, 2018).  The Google Teacher Tribe focuses on the Google Platform while Shukes and Giff goes into all types of educational tech products.  So, by listening to both podcasts I get lots of new ideas each week.  All of the things I am about to share here came from one of these podcasts this week.

Are you tab crazy??? If you have been near my computer you know that I often in excess of 20 tabs open….GASP…I know, it’s aweful!!!   If you too are “tab happy” then you need to download the free the  Google Chrome Extension called TOBY.   This morning after I heard about TOBY I knew this was the solution for me!  This extension allows you to save a collection of tabs that you can open with one click!  So, the first collection I created was my Daily Work Tabs – these are the essentials that I need everyday; my webmail, google drive, google calendar, my work log, and our school portal.  So, if I don’t need these tabs now I can close them because with one click they all come back!  The podcast suggested that if you teach multiple classes or multiple grades you could create a collection for each that would make it simple to open all he tabs for that class or grade by clicking the collection instead of having to open multiple tabs individually.    Once you install TOBY on your devices and create a login, your collections will sync across all of your devices!!  (WooHoo!)

The second nifty tech tool that Shukes and Giff talked about was the Noisli website.    If you like to have some background noise going while students are working this free web app is for you!  This site allows you are play and mix “white noise” .  You can choose from many different types of white noise (rain, different types of water, leaves, trains, fans, etc…), adjust the volume,  mix several sounds together, save your sounds, and even set a timer.  This free site might just be a nice edition to help your students focus.

The last three nifty tips I learned today that I would like to share are all for Google Drive users.  The first is a shortcut to change the view of your drive from grid to list form.  Instead of clicking the grid or list button in the upper right hand corner, just hit the v key while in your drive.  Each time you hit the v key the view will change.

There are many, many, many google shortcut keys.  Most of us are not familiar with many of them but they are easy to find.  In any google application you can press the ? key (shift ? key) and a box will pop up with all of the shortcut keys for that particular google app.  How cool is that????

The last nifty tip I wanted to share was that you can have a file in multiple (yes, I said multiple) places in your drive without making a copy!  That means that if you make a change on the file in one location it will change it in all the folders where the document is located!  This sort of reminds me of when we used to make an alias with our office documents.  All you have to do is click on a file and then press SHIFT-Z.  Next a box will pop up for you to decide the additional location you want to put the file in.  Notice it does not say “move here”.  This is HUGE for me.  Often times we create lessons or units that cross subjects.  Now I can put it in all of the different subject folders that it applies to.  Or…if you want to share something in your team folder but you also want to have it in your drive…use shift-z and you can have it in both places!

I hope you will check out one or a couple of these nifty tools!  All of them are fairly simple and FREE!

Posted in Tech Tools

Blogs, Tweets, Posts…OH MY!

Blogs, Tweets, Posts…oh my…how do we keep up with all of it??  Teachers spend an inordinate amount of time searching the web for teaching material.  Many of us regularly visit blogs and twitter to check for new information or resources.  Over the years I have become overwhelmed with remembering all of the great blogs and websites I like to check and then knowing when they have new content to share without visiting each site.  

These are the collections I have. Each time there is a new post you will see a number beside the collection to indicate the number of new posts. Once you click on the collection you will see all of those new posts in one spot!

The way I have tried to organize these resources has really changed over the years.  For a while I would bookmark those sites and then I used SymbalooEdu to organize them by topics.  With both of these tools I still had to check each link to see if they had posted new material.  So…I went in search of an app to help me out and VIOLA….I found and fell in love with feedly!    

These are all the new posts that I have not read from my favorites blogs. All I need to do to see the entire post is click on the link.

What you may ask, is feedly?  Feedly is an interactive app that allows you to organize blogs and website all in one place.  Each time you open the app you will see the new content has been posted to each site!  So, each Saturday morning (from the comfort of my bed) I can open feedly and read, all in one place, all of the new content that has been posted since the last time I opened the app.

How does it work?  First sign up for a free account.  Next, search for your favorite blogs, sites, tweets using the search box.  I find it is easiest to simply copy and paste the website URL I want directly into the search box in feedly.  Once it comes up in the search use the + to add it to your feedly.  You will be given the option to add each site to a “collection”.  These collections are basically your organization tool.  I have created collections for math resources, reading resources, book reviews, tech tools, etc…  Once you have added some sites you will see all the new posts for those sites when you open feedly.   Once you have viewed and/or read them they will be marked as “read”.  If you want to keep your favorite posts, this app will also allow you to save them directly to your feedly account so you can refer back to them at another time.

Feedly has made my own personal professional development a snap by keeping all of my favorite sites in one place.  Within a few minutes (on Saturday mornings or even while waiting for my kids at sports practice) I can see if there is new material to read from my favorite bloggers whether I’m on my ipad, iphone, or computer!






Posted in Reading

Audio as Text?

Why do we need audio resources in our instruction?

Most people think of text as articles, books, or basically anything with print.  But the Common Core includes video and audio recordings as text as well as print resources.  The use of audio recordings of text is apart of the Speaking and Listening Standards for the Common Core (CCSS).   We as teachers have come to accept the use of audio books as a way to help students who need support with reading (so they can hear the text read fluently as they read along) and to engage reluctant readers but not as many teachers utilize audio recordings as a way for students to gain information much like we do through the use of videos.

The “listening” part of the Common Core is evident in Kindergarten through High School standards.  Phrases such as, “listen to others, recount information presented orally, ask and answer questions about what a speaker says” are prominent in the listening standards.  So, if building listening skills is essential, where can teachers find audio resources?

Where can I find great audio resources for my classroom?

There are a couple great, easy to access, and FREE resources that teachers can tap into for audio text.  The first resource is LISTENWISE (  Listenwise is a repository of audio files from National Public Radio for science, social studies, ELA, and current event topics.  Audio files on the site are searchable by subject or keyword and are of varied lengths.  All of the audio files and podcasts included at the site also have a transcript included as well.

If you decide to use the website be sure to checkout their blog ( as they pull together audio resources for current topics such as the timely posts they shared in the last week; Listenwise for Presidents Day and Listenwise for the Winter Olympics.

What are some other great audio resources?

I am a HUGE proponent of Podcasts.  As someone who puts 20,000 miles in her car each year my family and I find that Podcasts are a great way to simultaneously pass the time and learn something.  While not all podcasts are appropriate for all ages of children I find that there are great podcasts that can be used with elementary age children.  My own children have been listening to the Stuff you Missed in History Class podcast for many years.  I will tell you that I do read the descriptions to the podcasts using the description before sharing them and would always recommend listening to the entire podcast before sharing them with your students to be sure the topic is appropriate.  For more podcasts that are appropriate for different age students check out these links:


Posted in Reading

A Cool Tech Tool to adjust Text

Have you ever found yourself planning a lesson with a text that contains the perfect content only to find that the lexile or F&P level is way to far above or below your student’s level?   Have you ever found that perfect article that fits the reading level for part of your class but are struggling to find a similar text for other levels of readers?  This week I ran across a website from a twitter post that can help teachers with these problems;  REWORDIFY (  

REWORDIFY is a site which modifies text to adjust the reading level.  Teachers can copy and paste text and it will automatically adjust the text to be easier or more difficult (you choose in the settings).  Once you copy and paste the text in the changes are highlighted in yellow.  If you want to see what word it replace you simply click on the highlighting and it will show you the original text. 

In addition to being able to modify text teachers can set up a free account and post articles in this website.  Students can then “learn” more difficult words by hearing the difficult words, seeing definitions as well as synonyms.  This website will even track the number of words students have learned over time.

So, if you have a great text but need to adjust the level, be sure to check out REWORDIFY!