Thursday, September 25, 2014

Huh? Back Up my Computer?

Over the summer, one of the coaches at my schools had her data lost when her computer was getting upgraded.  I knew she was fine because we had already talked about drop box, csddocs, and she had her own hard drive.  So I asked the question, "Did you back up your computer?"  I was flabbergasted when she hesitantly said, "No."  Where did I go wrong? How did I fail her as her Ed. Tech. We talked about all of the tools.  I had shown her how to use them.  Her comment.  "I just never had the time to sit down and back up my computer."  

First, I am going to give you the rationale on why it is important to back up your computer, or files. Then I am going to give you a few ideas on how you can back up those files, or documents, and still have them if your data is ever lost on your computer. 

Rationale:   Lost files are not always recoverable.  You can rest knowing that if your files are backed up, you still have access to what you need or have created, especially pictures. What if your laptop is left behind at a meeting or PD you just attended and then you went to get it and it was gone? What if your laptop or desktop was stolen? This would not be an easy task replacing personal or district devices, but at least those files that are lost, can be quickly recovered from your backup.  What about power failure that completely fried your motherboard to your computer? Destroyed files are often hard to recover when this happens to your computer.  Don't forget the mistakes that we as humans can make any day of the week!  Remember that Diet Coke that tasted so good and then after setting it down by your computer, a student accidentally bumps it and you see "pop" fall in s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n into your laptop.  Aren't your files backed up?  What about when from nowhere you have a virus infecting your computer? I can think of many other reasons of why you would need to have your files backed up.

How do I back up my computer?
There are several ways you can back up your files.  There are internet services called cloud storage, which allows you to store selected files on the internet and online backup, that allows you to store (backup) your whole computer.  I want to keep this list simple so you see what kind of choices are out there for you.

  • External Hard Drive:  The Lacie 1 TB Rugged Thunderbolt & USB 3.0 Hard Drive (9000488) is one that one recommend for teachers.  There is plenty of space to store files and portable to carry around.  There are other hard drives out there that are cheaper and would serve the purpose.  Just make sure enough memory is on it that it will hold what you want to back up.   

  • USB Flash Drive (aka Thumb Drive)  This is a data storage device that contains a USB interface.  Flash Drives are often used for storage, transferring files, and back-up.  They are small, fast, and very durable.  Some of the more popular brands include SanDisk, Kingston, and Lexar.  These can be purchased as 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB. Prices range from $4.99-$150.00.  It really depends on where you purchase them and if you find them on sale or not.    

            • Drop Box  (aka cloud storage)  Cloud storage offers a way to have access to your files whenever and wherever you may be.  Anything dropped in Dropbox will appear on all of your devices, apps making that happen,  including the website.  It is easy to share links, photos, documents, and videos with others.  Basic accounts begin with 2 GB of free space.  If you invite friends and they accept the invitation, you can earn 16 GB of additional free space.   Dropbox also offers a Dropbox Basic Plus account which is $9.99 a month and gives you 1 TB of space and there is a Dropbox Pro plus that is offered for businesses.        

It is best to back up your data at least once a month, if not more. The following are links about ways to back up your data. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

What's New with the New Google Drive?

Google Drive just recently got a facelift!
And some of the changes just might take you by surprise.  

If you're used to looking for documents and files in the "Shared with Me" folder, or making new items using the red "Create" button, then you're in for a rude awakening because they're gone!

Although the "Create" button is no longer at the ready for you to make new documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms, there is a new and easier way to build these files.   Click the "My Drive" drop down button and you'll see all your shortcuts are still there, just updated with cleaner pictures.

And when you want to find something that was shared with you be aware that the new name for these items are "Incoming".


Getting used to a new interface can be difficult.  If it's impeding your work or just too uncomfortable you can switch back to the "Old Drive" at anytime.  To do this click on the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner and choose "Leave the new Drive".

Switching back to the new Drive is just as easy.  Click the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner of your screen in the old Google Drive and select "Experience the new Drive"

If you are currently using the Google Drive app on an iPad you may find that the new Drive has a very similar appearance and might fit your visual preferences better than the old Google Drive interface. Folders and documents are displayed now in rectangular boxes with quick previews and other info.  In fact, all of the changes made to the online version of Google Drive were made to help insure that users of the mobile apps find the experience to be seamless.

Downloading Google Drive for your iPad is also pretty easy, go to Google Drive Tools and pick the device you're using.  On iPads you'll also need to download the free Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets apps to edit any of those Google Drive made files.

Note to CSD Docs users! - Our school domain for Google Drive is set up with a security system that may not work too well with the Mac and Windows Desktop apps for Google Drive.  Please use the standard log in at when you want to use Google Drive on your Mac or PC.

For more helpful tips on using the new Google Drive check out the Google Drive Help Website.

Once you get there be sure to watch this short intro video about the new Google Drive Experience.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

SuccessNet as a Parent Connection Tool!

There are 2 great tools in SuccessNet that will help facilitate better collaboration and communication between teachers and parents.

There is a setting that will put a digital copy of your Reading Street and enVision student textbooks in the student accounts. It is not the links to the digital lessons, but a pdf of the textbook. To show the link to digital textbooks in the student account, log into your grade level account. Then click on the arrow at the top of the page just to the right of an icon of a person and select “my account.

The next page has 2 columns; the right column shows “My Products”; just click on “Manage Products” at the bottom. The next page shows all the available products, in rows of Reading Street and envision, with small check boxes in the left column of products available to display. Select the products you want displayed, making sure from the middle column that you are selecting “student edition textbook”. After you have selected the products you would like displayed in the student accounts, click on “Add selected products to your class/group” at the top left of the page. On the next page you can select your class to assign the digital copy to, and can even just select specific students of you would like.

Here is what the student login would look like if you have done this process. Notice digital links at the bottom of the page:

Another way to increase parent communication would be to share with parents the “Parents” link at the top of the home page of the student account (see above). The parent link will let parents see their child’s lesson and test progress, see below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Remind 101 is now "Remind" and is more AWESOME than ever!

A couple of months ago, Remind 101 (one of my favorite teaching tools) became Remind. Then they updated their app and website with more amazing features that make it much more than a way to send quick text reminders to students and parents.

If you are new to Remind, here's a short overview of the key features:
  • Remind lets you connect with students or parents quickly and safely.
  • Students sign up to get communications from you (the teacher) and they never see your phone number and you never see theirs.
  • Recipients of your messages can't respond to you directly via text message.
  • Messages can be sent via SMS text message, email or through the app (more on that below.)
  • You can schedule messages. Do you have a test in 3 weeks? You can prepare messages with the info about the test and schedule them to be received when it is relevant to your students.
  • Remind is FREE!
You can check out their website to learn more:

Those are the basics, now for the really cool things you can do with Remind.

Teacher Setup:
You can create a new account and your first class from the App (Android and iOS) or from their website: You give your class a name and then you are assigned (or if you create additional classes, you can choose) a class code. This is the code students and parents will use to register for your class messages.

Student and Parent Sign Up:
Once your class is created, you are ready to add the people who will receive your messages. Remind makes it easy and gives you a PDF flyer you can send home or post in class to help people sign up.

You can also have people sign up for your messages by having them download the Remind app and add your class using your class enrollment code. This is my new favorite way to use Remind, because there is added functionality in the app that makes this new version of Remind much more than a messaging app.

Student or parents who are using the app to follow your messages, can respond to your messages by clicking one of four icons (Remind calls these "stamps"):

There are four stamps and how you use them is up to you and their meaning may vary depending on the context of your message. Typically the star would mean a favorite, the green check would mean I have received this or I agree. The red X would mean I disagree or don't like this. And the question mark means I don't understand understand or I have a question about this/can we discuss this in class?

Students do see how many stamps of each type are shared by other recipients, but they don't see any names associated with each stamp. Teachers can see the names of students or parents and the stamps that they assigned to your message. In this way teachers could conduct quick polls or surveys of their students, check students preparedness for a test, or discover which parents received the letter or homework sent home that day. There are lots of options with these and it's one of my favorite new features of Remind, so have some fun with this.

Teachers can also see how their students or parents are signing up for Remind. The easiest way to view this is through the user dashboard on the Remind website: Select the class you would like to check and look for the subscribers list at the right of your screen. There  you will see the names of the subscribers and their chosen method(s) for receiving your messages.

Sending Messages:
Now that everything is set up and you have students and parents enrolled in your class, you are ready to begin sending messages. You can do this easily from the app or via your user dashboard on the website. Just select the class or the students you would like to send a message to (if you select individual users, you must select at least 3).

In the app or on the website, you can attach files (photos only from the app) or schedule your message to be sent to students at a later date. You are limited to 140 characters for your message, so keep it short and to the point.

From the app, you can now send voice memos to your students so they can hear your voice delivering instructions or asking questions. The voice recording is limited to 15 seconds and you don't have to take the full time if you don't need to.

What Else Can Remind Do?
As great as Remind is for connecting with students and parents, it can also be used for professional development, faculty meetings and other professional uses. One really cool idea that I just heard about was a sort of micro MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) being run by Angela Maiers. Last month she announced a #YouMatter class that she would be running on Remind. I signed up and since that time, I have received dozens of great tips and advice on how to create a school culture where students and teachers believe that what they do matters. If you want to join her class, you can follow the instructions on her website, or simply enter the code @YouMat into your Remind app.

Inspired by this great work, I have also started a Remind class. I will share regular ed tech tips and ideas with subscribers, conduct regular polls through the app, and encourage discussion via twitter.

To join my Ed Tech Tips class and play along, follow these steps:

  • Download the Remind app for iOS (iPhone) or Android.
  • Search for our class by tapping the “+” next to “My classes.”
  • Enter @EdTechTips and sign up.
  • No smartphone? Text @EdTechTips to (302) 536-2705 and follow the instructions.
  • You can also visit and enter in your phone number to sign up.
Remind is a fantastic app and with the new updates and upgrades, it just keeps getting better. Let me know what you think in the comments below or on twitter @wardjhs #edtechtips.


New and Improved Imagine Learning

Over the summer, Canyons School District installed the update to Imagine Learning. This brought a new look and feel to the program. The student login was changed and now students and teachers login in at the same place. Another new feature is the Action Area Tool. This is a new resource for teachers to see exactly where their students are at, what help they need and then provides that support to the teacher to give to the student. It focuses in on what skills the student is struggling with and then links to activities and printouts to help reinforce their learning. It provides instant intervention.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A teacher at Mount Jordan Middle School, Erika Bradshaw (@erbra4) introduced to me a new tool which I think holds a lot of promise for video use in the classroom. Think Flipped Classroom!

EdPuzzle allows a teacher to edit educational videos by adding their own voice or comments and by posing questions to students that are inserted along a timeline that matches the video. Student progress can be tracked and teachers can know exactly how students answered each question!


Sign up for an account today and give EdPuzzle a try!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

AirDrop for Macs

Need to send a file to another teacher but don't want to take up your limited email space? Try using AirDrop. To access AirDrop, open your Finder window and click the AirDrop tab.  Then click and drag the desired file(s) or folder(s) to the user's icon. Remember, the larger the file(s), the longer the download process.  All computers will need to be on the same wireless network and within 30 feet of each other.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Reflex Math, a Time Test Alternative!

When I was teaching 5th grade, I found that one of the most beneficial practices I implemented was the daily 100 multiplication fact 5 minute time test.  I found that by Thanksgiving almost all my kids (with varying previous success in math) could finish the whole thing in 3 minutes without any errors.  This really made long division much easier to teach.  I know that by no means is math fact memorization where instruction should end.  Fact fluency does make the road to deeper mathematical concepts and application much smoother.  I will compare math fact fluency with reading fluency.  If we continue to sound out every word we read, meaningful literary experiences will be difficult to have.

In our district we now have access to Reflex Math.  It is a fun alternative to the time test.  It is a program, that through the guidance of a helpful crab, students can play games that allow them to more quickly recall their math facts.  They can access their account from any computer or using the new iPad app.  I look forward this year to hearing the success this fact practice can bring the students.  It will be most valuable if students have the ability to practice at school and at home.  While this may place demands on their teachers' already shrinking time, I think this is a truly worthwhile use of that time and resources.  My experience with the time test showed me just how much students could grow in math fluency with a short 10 minute daily activity.  Reflex Math is a great way for students to develop their skills using gamification!

If you'd like to get started, here's a guide on how to create your roster and how students log in.  Keep in mind, your students cannot access this tool until you have attached them to your roster.  Ask your Ed Tech for more information on how to implement this great math supplement in your classroom!  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Heartbreak over lost phones

While in a school yesterday, I was reminded about the importance of protecting my property.  Over the loud speakers, which can be heard throughout the school, I heard the sound a parent, student, administration, and EdTech cringe at, “If anyone finds an iPhone in a blue case please bring it to the main office.”   

I rushed to the main office to offer my help.  I asked the main office to call down the student.  Just then a student came in the room caring a blue iPhone case with no iPhone, they had found it on the floor.  The student’s face when she saw that her phone was gone was heartbreaking.

I said, “It’s OK, I am here to find your phone.” I felt like a superhero.

“How,” she replied.

“The miracle of iCloud.”  I assumed everyone with an Apple device enables this awesome feature.

“I never set iCloud up.”  The look of heartbreak was now on my face.  She knew what iCloud was but decided against it.   INSANE!

As you go to work this year or send your child to school with a smart phone or device be sure to enable any security features to help protect your investment.  The instructions for enabling security on Apple and Samsung products are listed below.