Sunday, July 5, 2020

Resurrecting the Teacher Tech Cafe Blog

For those who followed Teacher Tech Cafe, you probably thought I dropped off the face of the earth unless we kept in touch elsewhere. It's a long story about why the blog went dormant, so I won't bore you with the details. I'm happy to announce I am shaking off the dust and breathing life back into the blog. 

COVID-19 has brought about a challenging, yet exciting, time for teachers! You, my friends, always rise to the challenge. In helping teachers get a handle on remote teaching with Google, I created short videos on common teacher questions. I have shared all of those HERE.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Build a Class App without Code!

I spend a lot of my time researching new technology, reading blog posts, following great educators on Twitter, and trying out new things. My lens is always that of how could we use that for purposeful learning in the classroom? It doesn’t matter if it is an ed tech tool or not, I still look at it through that lens.

Recently I read about Glide--an online platform for building apps through the use of Google Sheets. I had set it aside to try out when I had time, but I kept seeing interesting posts about it. I finally gave it a try last week, and I have to say I am super excited! Now the apps I built are nothing fancy, but I see so many potential uses in the classroom. I imagine students teaching unit concepts through multimedia and putting it together in “Study” apps. the value would be in the media creation, but think how excited your kids would be to have created their own app. Teachers could certainly use an app to keep students and parents up-to-date and in the know, but I see the real power is student creation. Even our smallest of students could help the teacher build the content for the app.
The best part about it? You don’t need to know how to code! You build your content in a Google Sheet, and then you tag your components in the app and design your layout. You can add late, video, images, and multiple pages. You can pay for a pro account, so you can upload to the App Store, but there’s no need! The free version give you a QR code that students and parents can dance to add the app to their home Home screen.
Glide provides you with tutorial videos, and the help feature allowed me to get a question answered within minutes. Try out here:
I built an app for my summer workshop just to give building a try. You can see my app here in your web browser:

What kind of ideas do you have for an app in your classroom? Please share any ideas with us in the comments below, and share any classroom apps you create!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hour of Code ~ It’s a Celebration!

Are your students coding?
We are in the midst of celebrating Hour of Code this week - December 3-9.  As teachers, we have more resources at our fingertips than ever before, and...drum roll, please...we don’t have to be coding experts to get our kids started!

Apple has teacher resources for coding:

Flipgrid shared coding the Code Explorer Series info in their newsletter:

Tynker shared

Don’t forget

Anyone else still a Nancy Drew fan?
Nancy Drew has her own coding game for iOS and Android.

Be sure to read about Coding for Littles, too!

There are many, many resources available! What’s your favorite? Be sure to share in the comments below.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Put on Your Thinking Caps and Play Mystery Animal

When I was still in the classroom, we played Mystery Bag every Thursday morning during breakfast. I had a secret item in the bag, and my students used their questioning skills to try to guess the item. They could only ask yes/no questions--ten at a time. I recorded the questions on butcher paper, and they hung on the wall for everyone’s perusal. Every year, we started out with random, overly-broad or overly-narrow questions, but with a little coaching, my students soon began planning strategic questions to eliminate categories of objects.

One student with a guess was randomly chosen to try to name the object after each set of ten questions. If the guess was wrong, the Mystery Bag went back on the shelf until the next week. The first couple of items would sometimes take upwards of 200 questions before being guessed, but something amazing happened each year with our little breakfast game. Students began discussing strategy and thinking about how they asked questions. They used questions of elimination and categorization. They became critical thinkers!

Well, Google has reinvented Mystery Bag with Mystery Animal. Eric Curts at ControlAltAchieve always has great content, and I happened on Play “Mystery Animal” with Google on his blog this week. Of course, I had to play. Then I had to show some coworkers. You know how educators are when we find something cool! Next thing I knew, I could hear others challenging Mystery Animal from various corners of the office.

You can access the game through the website at:

I haven’t tried it, but you can also speak to a Google Home unit or to the Google Assistant app and play by saying, “OK Google, talk to Mystery Animal.”

The nerdy science teacher came out in me, and I gave the Mystery Animal a run for its money by throwing science vocabulary at it to see if it could really answer my questions. Let’s just say Google did its homework. The only question my animal didn’t quite understand was, “Do you live in an aquatic environment?” I don’t know if it was the word aquatic or my West Texas accent that threw off the Mystery Animal, but it quickly recovered!

Why not give Mystery Animal a try with your students? You may not be the science teachers, but our students need critical thinking skills in every subject area. I think this is my favorite Google Voice Experiment to date!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Welcome Back to School!

Ready or not, here they come!

What new things are happening in the tech world?
 First, if you haven't heard, Microsoft and Flipgrid merged. What does this mean for you? FREE! The premium teacher account is now completely free for teachers. You can set up multiple grids, change any and all settings, and have complete control over your class. 

Second, Google Classroom got some major updates! These include
  • a new Classwork section
  • all settings in one place
  • a quick grade tool with a feedback library you can build
  • the ability to copy an entire class, including assignments saved as drafts

Thursday, July 26, 2018

FlipGrid and Microsoft Merged!

I hope you have heard by now that FlipGrid and Microsoft have merged. This calls for a celebration! What does it mean for you? The merge means you now have a premium educator account for free. You have access to multiple grids and all of the bells and whistles. Thank you Microsoft for supporting teachers!
If you haven't used FlipGrid, you definitely need to give it a try. Students can use any device with a camera to record themselves. How could this benefit student-centered learning in your classroom?
Students can:
  • reflect on learning
  • explain/teach a concept
  • document learning over time (think projects and accountability)
  • practice fluency - video themselves reading
  • share a story/poem they have written
  • answer a question you've asked and support it with evidence
  • ask questions
  • join in conversations with experts (FlipGrid offers grids with scientists, authors, etc...)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Changes to Google Forms!!

I am so excited about the changes coming to Google Forms. You have asked me over and over again about being able to change fonts in Google Forms, and it is happening!

From Google: "Specifically, you can now choose colors and fonts to theme your form. This has been a top feature request from our users..."

You will also be able to change the Form color independent of the header you choose!

Yay Google! They really do listen to your feedback, so always share your thoughts on how they can create better functionality for your classroom.

Happy Summer!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Badges in the Classroom

Gamification is all around us. Any of you have a Fitbit? And have you ever walked extra steps to get that little star that says you exceeded your goal? I am all about intrinsic motivation in the classroom, but we also know students need to be able to see progress happening.

Have you considered badging for skill mastery? A badge certifies a student has mastered a specific skill. I used a system much like digital badges back in the Stone Age days of my teaching. I made hundreds of laminated cards (like trading cards) students earned when they mastered a specific piece of content. They kept them on key rings. Now we can do the same thing digitally.

Most of you have probably heard different ideas about adding game elements to your classroom. You may have even looked into some of the badging tools out there. Did you know you can create your own badges and issue them using Google tools?

These were created in Google Drawings-

There isn't one right way to use badges in the classroom.

You could:
  • Save your badges to Google Keep and add them to student work done in Docs, Slides, Sheets, or Drawings.
  • Create a Google Sheet that issues badges as students complete tasks.
  • Offer badges for taking on personal challenges to grow in a specific area.

Alice Keeler makes a good point about the intrinsic vs. extrinsic debate over badging.

If the conversations are centered around the learning the focus will be on the learning. However, if the conversations are around badge earning this will put the focus on the badges and thus more on extrinsic motivators.

Do you have ways you use badges in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Noteflight ~ Chromebook + Music = Amazing!

I happened to be reading through the latest from #GoogleClassroom Teacher Tips, and I read about Noteflight paired with Google Classroom. Armed with a Chromebook and creativity, students can write their own music! The website has a premium version, but I can see where the free version has great value.

From Noteflight:

People who make music -- amateurs and professionals, students and teachers -- want to share that music with others, sooner or later. But most software for working with notated music treats the Internet as an afterthought: it's geared to saving your music on your own computer's hard disk, not to sharing your music with other people. It's painful to share musical scores online today, and as software inventors, we knew how much better it could be. People expect to be able to do their creative work wherever they go, and a crop of new browser-based applications make it incredibly easy to create and publish word-processing documents or spreadsheets online. We feel musical documents should be just as accessible.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What's Holding You Back?

So what is it? What's holding you back? I don't believe for a minute that any teacher wakes up in the morning and says, "Well, I'll just try to do enough to get by today." Nope. We hit the floor running hoping to change the world one child at a time. Then... reality hits us in the face. There are so many hurdles, so many 'what ifs', so many unexpected roadblocks throughout the day. By the end, we are often saying, "Well, I did all I could to survive today."

I'm a goal setter and a planner. I think it's in our nature as educators. I have to be careful, though, because I can let the planning overtake the action. Do you ever find yourself planning to do something different in your classroom, and planning, and planning...things such as tech integration, PBL, design thinking, student-directed learning... Maybe you'll get it all planned out this summer for next fall, or you'll train your kids in the fall, so that you can take the big leap in the spring. Is that sounding familiar to any of you?

I have been blessed with an opportunity to be a part of Kasey Bell's ShakeUpLearning book launch for her new book Shake Up Learning: Practical Ideas to Move Learning from Static to Dynamic. I have been privileged to get to read the book ahead of its launch. I'll tell you up front I get a free copy, but I'm not sharing this quote because of the free book.


It's true. It begins with you. It begins with me. Technology can transform learning, but only if you and I quit planning to...some day, and take that step today. So what will you do differently today? What action will you take to change the way your students 'do school'? 

The greatest part of it is we don't have to take action alone. We can do this together. 

Are you in? 
Let's stop planning to change the world someday, and let's take action today!

What will you do today?