Saturday, March 21, 2015

Got Spelchek?

Just as in other Word Processors like Microsoft Word and Word Perfect, Google Docs also has spellcheck capabilities, but this is a function you can turn on or off. Teachers have noticed that some students have this turned off and are not notified of spelling errors in their documents. Using Spellcheck can be an easy way of catching little mistakes and typos.

To turn Spellcheck, make sure that you select 'Show Spelling Suggestions' on the View menu as seen below.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Almost Like Magic

If you have ever wished there was an easy way to convert an assessment, exit slip or study guide to a Google Form, your wish has come true.


Doc to Forms is an Add-On available in Docs.  This Add-On opens a sidebar in your Google document and makes it very easy to move the text from your doc to the form questions.  Select some text, click here, cut and paste there, add a few semicolons and voila your form is mostly done.

Finish applying your theme and adjusting other necessary settings in the new Google Form and you are ready to start collecting answers.

Now, if there was an Add-On that would create the form questions automatically based on formatting styles - that would be magical.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Google Search Results by Reading Level

Doing research using Google searches with younger students or struggling readers can be difficult if the students can't comprehend the content of the websites. You can use the Search Tools in Google to return search results by reading level - Basic, Intermediate or Advanced. Reading level seems to be based on the length of the text as well as the level of vocabulary.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reading Paper vs Reading Screens

As our high school has transitioned into becoming a high school 1:1 with mobile computing, teachers have had discussions of the impacts of technology right at the fingertips of high school students. Discussions sometimes hinge on whether or not students should utilize online text; and the differences between reading online and reading offline.

There is research trickling out that supports teachers' instincts to question the difference between reading online and reading offline. First, to define the difference. There are some tasks that take offline reading, say reading a novel, and put them on a device in text format. Researchers are suggesting that there isn't much difference in the reading skills needed to read a novel on paper and read a novel on a device. In fact, often times, applications have built-in dictionary and highlighting options that could enhance the reading of novels. Putting a textbook online doesn't change the skills needed to actually read that textbook.

However, our approach to materials on screens and to materials on paper can differ greatly. According to Dr. Donald Leu, a University of Connecticut - Storrs researcher, there is an overlap in the skills needed to read materials online or offline. Skills such as sounding out words, developing vocabulary and building background knowledge are important to both types of reading.

Where reading online becomes a different exercise than reading offline is when students (or adults) are using the internet to find information. Our approach to reading becomes different on the internet. We are skimming, scanning, looking at a large number of sources to find answers. If students begin to take this same approach to reading a textbook on a laptop, they are no longer gaining a deep understanding of the text. Placing informational text (such as a textbook) that contains the answers, conclusions and outcomes the teacher expects students to gain in front of them requires completely different skills than seeking desired information from a myriad of sources.

Dr. Leu explained that "online reading almost always involves trying to solve a question or problem you've got" and for teachers this means teaching the "reading skill of evaluating the reliability of a web source..., effective email communication or how to synthesize information from multiple sources to draw a conclusion." In a textbook, students are looking for an answer that is already there and has been deemed reliable; on the internet, they are searching for an answer and need to ensure it is from a reliable source.

There seem to be two things going on here: our psychological approach to screens versus paper, and the skills needed to filter online information for reliability. No matter your opinion or nostalgia for feeling and smelling the pages of a paperback novel in your hand or cracking open a new textbook your first week of college, the truth is that both types of reading - online and offline - are important skills for students to know. Students can search for answers with Google at home in their bedrooms much more quickly than consulting Encyclopedia Britannica, but are we setting them up to become fountains of mis-information if we don't ask them to evaluate the millions of results rendered from their query? What can we do to help students become purveyors of web research?

Quotes based on transcripted interview from Education Week, "Growth of Online Reading Fuels New Achievement Gap, Researchers Say."  Sep 2013

Monday, March 9, 2015

Education, In 30 Seconds

George Couros is the Division Principal for Parkland School Division and an Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership consultant. He presents all over the world and extensively uses social media to connect with other educators and leaders. According to his blog, The Principal of Change, he believes that teachers should inspire kids to follow their passions, and to allow them to inspire us to follow ours.

George recently started a new project called EDU in 30, or #EDUin30. It is a Twitter project whereby people use the new 30-second video feature of Twitter to record a response to an question prompt. Each week he will post a new question. 

The rules for participation are simple:
1. Post a video answering the question.
2. Tag the post with #EDUin30 and #EDUin30w1 (for week 1, then w2 for week 2 and so on).

This got me thinking. We have some pretty amazing and innovative teachers here in Chippewa Falls and I think we should give George Couros a run for his Canadian dollar (and that's only about $.79 US)... 

My challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to flood Mr. Couros's Twitter feed with our totally amazing #EDUin30 posts. Make sure you also tag #cfausdrocks. And mention @gcouros if you're feeling daring...

The question for week 1 is: What is one practice in your classroom that you would like to share? So, what is something amazing you do with your students? Share it with the world in 30 seconds or less!

If you've never used Twitter before, sign up for an account at Start by following Cara (@caramcs) and myself (@thinkbigmuch) and we will help you from there. If you're not comfortable posting yet, use the Twitter search bar to search #EDUin30 to get some ideas for your classroom!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Badger/SBAC Accommodations for IEP or 504 Plan

The previous post Tools All Students Can Use on the SBAC Badger Exam we discussed how, in the age of online assessment, students can be provided with some built-in test-taking supports that were not previously easily accessible in paper format assessments. In Tier 2 Supports for Badger/SBAC pt 2 we discussed built-in supports for students who struggle with reading, writing or test-taking, but are not serviced in special education. Still one more layer of support is available for students that have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. These students must be identified and set up in the Test Operations Management System (TOMS) prior to the test administration.

Students with these specific needs can get support like directions and Math/Listening portion content provided in American Sign Language. Closed captioning on listening tasks is also available. Students with vision impairments proficient in Braille will have the opportunity to have content presented to them in Braille and answer using a Braille keyboard.

Text-to-Speech is a Designated support available for tier 2 level students in certain areas, but students with an IEP or 504 plan may also be able to access text-to-speech options for the ELA portions of the exam (only for students in grades 6-8). This is a very small portion of students - recommended to be only 1-2% of the testing population because students are no longer reading the content they are being tested on, they are listening to it while reading.  Keep in mind that students who are recommended to use text-to-speech on any portion of the Badger should have ongoing experience with text-to-speech in their education. Computer-read content is much different than human-read content. For assessment purposes, as well as college/career readiness and life skills practice, students should experience text-to-speech throughout their educational experience using tools like Read & Write for Google, Kurzweil or Read Out Loud/Solo. A small percentage of students could also qualify to have the test read aloud by a trained human voice, an option called Read Aloud.

Students who have an IEP or 504 plan that includes other technology supports and accommodations can have access to those types of supports on the Badger exam as well, including: using an abacus, a physical calculator, such as a talking calculator, or a multiplication table provided by SBAC/Badger. Students with physical impairments can also utilize alternative response options, such as using a switch to navigate the screen for choosing answers. In rare circumstances, such as photosensitivity due to epilepsy, can have stimuli printed for reading.

For the writing portions of the exam, students may also qualify for a human scribe to write verbatim what is dictated. Use caution with this option is these students must also have practiced this skill throughout their schooling experience and be able to take part in writing planning portions of the exam using a scribe as well. This option is most often used with students with severe motor impairments or temporary motor impairments, such as a broken arm. Students also have the opportunity to use external speech-to-text devices to compose written responses. Using speech-to-text should be a regular part of this student's educational experience in order to ensure that it is beneficial for the test-taking experience.

If you have any questions about these supports, the Power Point presentation by DPI is a great resource. That link can be found here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where Did My Chrome Bookmarks Go?

One of the biggest differences from using Internet Explorer and Chrome, from a user standpoint, is that preferences and bookmarks can be saved in the cloud, meaning that you can access them from any computer on the internet. But in order to take advantage of having your Chrome bookmarks wherever you log in, you must be signed in to Chrome before you save a bookmark.

To sign in to Chrome, look to the top right corner of your Chrome screen. If there is a silhouette image of a person, then you are not signed in to Chrome. If it says your name, you are. Click on the image of the silhouette and choose "Sign in to Chrome."

Once you are signed in, your bookmarks will save to the Google cloud and be available for you anywhere you sign in. Some teachers have been experiencing loss of their Chrome bookmarks when their machine is reset or rebuilt. If you are not signed in to Chrome, your bookmarks are saved on the computer and when the computer is wiped and rebuilt, those bookmarks are lost.

Signing into Chrome has other benefits as well. If you explore Google Apps or Extensions, these will also be available to you when you are logged into Chrome on your machine. Also, when you click on the link to open your Gmail or Google Drive, you will already be signed in.

To easily add bookmarks, click the star icon in the address bar when you're on your favorite website. You can also click the chrome menu (three lines in the top right corner of the window), click Bookmarks -> Bookmark This Page or just drag the lock or page icon in front of the URL in the address bar down to your bookmarks bar. If you are signed into Chrome and can't see your bookmarks under the address bar, try clicking the chrome menu, then Bookmarks -> Show Bookmarks Bar. 

For more information on managing and organizing your bookmarks, visit Google Supprt at: