Friday, January 20, 2017

Now Available: The Chromebook Classroom Podcast

The Chromebook Classroom Podcast, Season 1

Season 1 of the Chromebook Classroom podcast is now available!

The Chromebook Classroom Podcast was created to highlight how Chromebooks are impacting education around the world. Each episode features an interview with someone who is using Chromebooks to improve teaching and learning. Listen to the season introduction below.

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Google Play, or listen on

Chromebook Classroom Podcast on Google Play Music
 Chromebook Classroom Podcast on iTunes

Season 1 Episodes:

ep. 01 | Cyrus Mistry - Group Product Manager, Android & Chromebooks for Education
ep. 02 | Dave Bast - Technology Integration Specialist, Holland, Michigan
ep. 03 | Eric Griffith - Tech Director, Mechanicsburg, Ohio
ep. 04 | Elliot Soloway, Professor of education, engineering and information at the University of Michigan
ep. 05 | Jolanda Nederveld - K-4 Technology and Media Specialist, Oriole Park Elementary School
ep. 06 | Wendy Nimtz - 5th grade, Our Shepherd Lutheran school

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DIY Chromebook Cart

DIY Chromebook Cart

I recently worked with a large school district that is deploying G Suite and Chromebooks in the coming year. During my visit to the district I saw a do-it-yourself Chromebook cart that was built by one of the teachers who piloted Chromebooks for the district.

The cart was simple, effective, and very inexpensive to build. The cart holds 16 Chromebooks.  You can view larger images of the cart here.

There are three elements to this cart design:

  1. Some type of rolling desk or table
  2. Metal dish-rack like this one from Amazon
  3. Powerstrips for charging the devices (this cart required 3 strips with 6 outlets each)
Laptop carts can be quite expensive and take away from funds that could be used to purchase more devices for students. I thought this was a great idea and a simple design. 

Have you built a Chromebook cart? I would love to see it! Leave a comment with a link to a picture of your design!

Make your own Chromebook Cart

Monday, January 16, 2017

The importance of support

For the past few months I have been recording interviews for the Chromebook Classroom Podcast. Each episode features a conversation with a teacher, tech director, librarian, tech coach, etc. While each conversation is unique, as I was re-listening to each episode to develop the show notes, there was a common element that appeared in nearly every conversation - the importance of support for teachers. 

Each of the teachers that I interviewed spoke highly of their administration, tech department, and tech coach. This support was an essential element of their success in the classroom. Several of the teachers that I spoke with would not consider themselves "techy" but the support provided by their district gave them the confidence to step out and try something new:

Support from the IT department insures that school infrastructure optimized for learning. 
School administrators can support teachers by working to secure funding for technology and school improvement and ensuring that school policies support classroom teachers. 
Tech coaches serve on the front lines, providing just-in-time support for teachers looking for new tools and strategies to engage and challenge their students. 
Teachers are not reluctant to try new things...
Teachers don't avoid technology.... As long as they are supported

When teachers are supported, they can do amazing things! 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ThingLink VR Bootcamp in Michigan!

Virtual Reality is a promising classroom tool. Being able to transport your students to a different time and place is pretty remarkable! 
Right now VR is primarily a passive activity - you just consume content. While that is okay, I much prefer technologies that allow teachers and students to create and share with one another.
ThinkLink is developing tools that can be used to CREATE a custom VR experience. Here's an example of something a Science teacher might do to teach students about biomes.
I played with the ThingLink VR editor this past summer and was impressed. I reached out to them to see if they would be willing to come to Michigan to lead an event to help get more educators involved in CREATING VR content.
ThingLink is coming to Brighton, Michigan on February 3 to lead their VR bootcamp. This full day of training will show you what ThingLink can do and how it can be used as a teaching tool. Everyone is welcome, even if you haven't used ThingLink before.
Registration is $175/person and INCLUDES a full year of the premium version of ThingLink ($129/year). We'll also give you a nice lunch and good company! 

To register, click here

Not from Michigan? ThingLink has bootcamps scheduled around the country. Here is their current schedule. You can also register to host an event! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Disrupt your Classroom in 2017

While technology in the classroom has greatly increased and improved over the past 20 years, the teaching methods that we use, haven't kept pace! It's time to disrupt traditional teaching methods! Here are four ideas to get you started.

1. Ditch boring lectures

Sit-n-get lectures don't encourage collaboration or critical thinking. Instead of firing up your favorite PowerPoint, use Pear Deck to engage your students with questions and activities. Pear Deck allows you to add multiple choice, short answer, free response, numerical, drawing, and interactive questions into any PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation. It's super easy and it integrates with Google Drive and Classroom! Here's a 30 second video to help you get started!

2. Make your Students Teach

Ask students to record a short (1-3 min). screencast that explains an important topic or idea you are studying. I recommend Screencastify, but there are lots of options out there!

Have them save their recording to Google Drive and add a link to the video into a Google Presentation or document that the entire class has access to.Now every student has a mini lesson on all of the essential topics you are studying! Here's an example of essential tech skills that a group of teachers put together over Christmas break.

3. Put the technology away!

Technology is great, but should serve a specific purpose. Sometimes, the best way to shake things up is to do the opposite of what students expect! Instead of using technology, put it away!

Have students "pass notes" in class on paper rather than commenting in a Google doc. Or have them conquer a Breakout Edu Challenge!

4. Give students choice!

Too much of my own instruction was sequential and "one-size fits all". Give your students choice by using hyperdocs! It's a simple idea - a hyperdoc is a "menu" of small activities and choices that helps students explore a topic. Your "menu" should include sufficient choice and flexibility to allow students to express their learning in their own unique way.

Check out this great example from middle school teacher Tonya Nugent.

Interested in exploring more ideas for disrupting the traditional classroom? I am working on a free 5-lesson email course that expands on the ideas above. Click here to subscribe!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Chromebook Classroom Podcast

I have always wanted to write a book and publish a podcast.

I finished my book in November, so I decided to tackle the podcast!

Next week I will be launching the Chromebook Classroom podcast to explore how Chromebooks are impacting education.

Season 1 features 6 interviews with a wide variety of guests. Here's what you can expect:
  • ep. 01 | Cyrus Mistry - Group Product Manager, Android & Chromebooks for Education
  • ep. 02 | Dave Bast - Technology Integration Specialist, Holland, Michigan
  • ep. 03 | Eric Griffith - Tech Director, Mechanicsburg, Ohio
  • ep. 04 | Elliot Soloway, Professor of education, engineering and information at the University of Michigan
  • ep. 05 | Jolanda Nederveld - K-4 Technology and Media Specialist, Oriole Park Elementary School
  • ep. 06 | Wendy Nimtz - 5th grade, Our Shepherd Lutheran school
All six episodes will drop "Netflix style" on January 17th on iTunes and Google Play. If you would like to be notified when season 1 is available, just enter your contact information below and I will send you an email.

Season 1 is a test to see if my podcast is well received, and if I enjoyed publishing it. I will be looking for feedback to decide if there will be a season 2! If you listen to any of the episodes, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lesson Ideas for #Chromebook Classrooms: Simple Story Builder

Note: this lesson idea is an excerpt from my book, The Chromebook Classroom. If you find this lesson helpful, you will enjoy the 40+ lessons from the book! Pick up a copy on Amazon or at!

Dialog and character interaction is what makes fiction immersive and engaging. Learning how to write engaging dialogue is difficult, but with Google Story Builder, students can practice the writing process in a fun and interactive way. Students can add multiple characters and background music to set the tone for their story.

The purpose of this assignment is to help students practice and experience writing dialogue. It takes a lot of time to come up with characters, a plot, and a setting for a short story. Rather than coming up with these elements on their own, have students use a plot generator to automatically suggest all of the required elements. Not only will this save time, students will find the crazy plot suggestions quite entertaining!

After generating and reviewing their plot, students will use the Google Story Builder tool to write the dialog for a portion of their story. The story builder tool is purposefully restrictive and only allows a maximum of 10 characters, with no more than 10 comments from each one.

After completing the dialog, students can customize their background music, then publish and share the video for others to watch.

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Here's an example of a finished story:

Tips and Suggestions

Stories cannot be modified once they are published. Encourage students to plan their story on paper before building and publishing their digital story.

Stories cannot be downloaded. The only way to share a story is to copy the unique link to a published video. Create a shared Google document to collect and share links so that students can watch each other’s creations.