Noel Erskine, Technology Coordinator Norris Schools

Welcome to my technology blog.
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💥 Tech tools - New Google sign in, new features, free photo site, extensions and more in this weeks tech tools.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Update: new Google sign-in screen launching later this week- don't get alarmed if your log in looks a little different.

It's a very slight change to the look, but with phishing attempts and other things that go on, I wanted to keep all of our users updated.  (Did you see the news talking about Spear Phishing with the Russian hacking on the elections. Made me think about our Kevin Mitnick KnowBe4 training.  Keep safe out there!) 

Watch out - The Norris tech boot camp is coming! 

Jason has already sent out the survey, but I have seen some of the exciting things in the works.  Don't miss out on this... and it includes lunch and stipends. Get out of the humidity and get ready!

Misc. Web tools and sites:  
Include a message when changing meeting details in Google Calendar -New feature! -There are many reasons why you’d need to make an edit to a meeting, and we’re now making it easier to communicate those changes. Going forward, when you change or delete an existing meeting, you’ll see a dialog box where you can enter a message for other guests of the meeting.

Great site for high quality - free photos. -  UnSplash  (They have a nice Google Slide add-on listed in the Google Slides section below.) 

WOW Check out the interactive mathematics teaching resources. Great resources for the K-8 classrooms!  Use with your Chromebook and cast!  Your projector, Mimio, etc... 

This is a cool landing page for a classroom teacher!  You have to check it out to see what I am talking about.  A lot of widgets to add to the screen!  Big note - It does not save your settings/page - so that is limiting.

29 Best Add-ons for Google Docs - Great list of add-ons!  

6 ways Quizzes in Google Forms are getting smarter - If you are not using this with Google Classroom, you are missing out!

Great Extensions for Chrome! Thanks to our MS Social Studies teacher James Myers for these:

  • Web Paint - Write on your webpage.WOW, this one is awesome!
  • Keep Awake - Override your pc’s power savings mode that puts your screen to sleep. (Works great to stop your Chromebook from going to sleep if you are casting, etc...)

Google Slides: 
How to share video with Google Slides - Four tips to help you work with video in Google Slides from a desktop browser or mobile device.

Kasey Bell’s 8 Great Ways to Use Google Slides - Includes this great Google Slide add-on!  UnSplash Photos for Google Slides Add-On  Try the Icons by Noun Project add-on for Google Slides. 

We just added a template in our Slides template gallery with a lot more tools adn tips! Check out the templates here. 

Google classroom:
Google Sheets:  
10 Google Sheets Tips & Tricks To Start Using Today - Google Sheets is rich with hidden tips and tricks that can not only speed up your workflow but also add some oomph to the way you present data.

Models and Equations in Google Sheets - a great GAFE for Littles project!  Yes, spreadsheets and Google classroom make it easy for the K-4 classes too! 

Google Certification:

We have 14 staff members currently working on their certifications with many staff members already certified from previous years.  As one of the staff members stated, " I'm pumped about incorporating some of these things this year for my classroom! " 

If you have not participated in this program... I would encourage you to look at it for next summer! 

Have you completed the Kahn Acadamy teacher tour? We already have several teachers that have completed it and received their certificate.  Prizes will be coming to those that complete this!  (Email or share with me the completed certificate.)

Access the free, 60-minute, self-paced mini-course anytime until August 10.
Select and watch seven of the brief videos—they’re only two to five minutes each.
Complete a short reflection and planning exercise.
And that’s it! You’ll earn a certificate of completion for Khan Academy for Teachers 101 and start the year feeling confident that you have a new tool in your teacher toolbox. We’ll be here every step of the way to help you make the upcoming school year your best one ever! 

💥 Tech tools - Last one of the school year - But some great ones! Clipart, New features in Google and more!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Misc websites and tech tools:

IOS App -  Stickyboard 2 for iPad is free right now. It's usually $4.99.

Make a QR code that opens to a gallery of Images. -  Ever want students to do a quick activity and don’t want them to spend all their time searching for images? Or, maybe you are not comfortable sending students out on the web to search for photos? Perhaps you want students to use a specific set of images? Then consider creating a QR code that links to a shared Google Drive folder with images!

Kids (Or teachers)  interested in programming? - Three Ways to Develop Programming Skills This Summer

Google Classroom:

Some great tips by Tony Vincent. (Guessing even a veteran will pick up a few tips from this one!)  

Automate Repetitive Tasks in Google Sheets With Macros
This new feature in sheets can same you a lot of time with repetitive tasks. Check out this short 1-minute video to see it in action. 

Elementary & Intermediate teachers - are you using Google Classroom?
...If it wasn’t for Disney on Pandora, you could have heard a pin drop! Love seeing them so focused with Google Classroom to review reading! Check it out from our own Katie Mueller @MrsMueller2nd 
There are a ton of great uses in the younger grades! The #GAFE4Littles will get you started. 

Google added Offline Gmail baked into the new Gmail -No extension installs, etc...
Here are the quick settings:
  • Log in to your Gmail account.
  • Click on the gear icon to open the Gmail menu, then click Settings.
  • Under Settings find Offline. Click on it.
  • In the Offline menu, click Enable Offline Email.
  • Choose how many days to sync, and whether to keep or remove cached email when signing out of a Gmail account.
  • Click Save Changes and you're done.
  • Give Gmail some time to download messages, and be sure you have Gmail open in Chrome before going offline.
Just Like Twitter, Gmail Lets You ‘@’ Mention People
Via TNW | Gmail got a much-needed visual refresh and some clever new features recently. But did you know that the revamped interface also supports user mentions, à la Twitter? When you’re composing a new message or a reply, you can insert anyone’s email address in the body by entering the @ symbol, followed by their name. It'll bring up a list of people in your contact list with that name, and choosing any of them will add a mailto link labeled with their name. When your recipient clicks that link, it’ll bring up a new compose window so they can write to that contact.

Have a computer at home - you may want to run this once in while! - Chrome Has a Built-In Malware Scanner, Here’s How to Use It

Google Slides tip:

Tip - In case you didn't notice, Google Slides has a Grid view. Click the View menu and select Grid view or click the Grid view icon in the bottom left corner. 

Remember - New things coming to Google Forms!

💥 Tech tools - New Google features that will amaze you! Students phished the tech tool and more in this weeks tech posting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Summer tech opportunities revisited: 
Summer 2018 tech opportunities for Norris staff! - Check it out!   Watch for more info coming out later on the Google and Tech Boot Camp - Offered at Norris. August 7 & 8.

One more opening for Google Summit! - WIth Becky Wilhelm leaving the district (We will miss you Becky!) we have one more opening to fill her spot.  If you are interested, let me know ASAP.

Virtual Classroom Experience June 7, 2018 - ESU 6
See the attached flyer for more information on this event. If there are any questions please contact:  Terri Hettenbaugh  402.761.3341
Misc. websites and tools:
Way to manage the volume in your class.

Are you using your Chromebook to whiteboard?  If not... now may be a good time to try it out!
I have updated my Whiteboard and drawing tools doc with a couple new tools. Combine it with Cast and walk around the room! 

6 Ways Quizzes in Google Forms Are Getting Smarter
The Keyword | Google is announcing six new features based on valuable feedback from teachers and designed to help educators continue using Quizzes in Google Forms in creative ways.

WOW - here are a couple great resource list of tech tools!  
The ESU 5 ISTE Toolkit includes over 180 technology tools (with a FOCUS on FREE) that could be leveraged when implementing instruction promoting digital age skills. ESU 5 ISTE Toolkit - Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the searchable list. 

How many of these tools have you heard of?  (There were a couple new gems in here for me!) 

How are we doing at Phishing?
Homeland Security Chief Cites Phishing as Top Hacking Threat - It's scary and the bad guys are getting in by having us click on things we should not be clicking on.  I think we are getting better.... but we still have a ways to go.  (See the article below how a kid Phished his teachers.) Here is  the info from our latest report:


Google slides - So much more... publish books, use it as your publishing program and more!   Tip from the Google EDU Newsletter: 

Creating Stop Motion in Slides
“I utilize Google Slides frequently to create engaging and sharp graphic publications to communicate information. I have even used Google Slides to publish a children's book. Recently, I have moved into teaching students how to create stop motion with Google slides - creating a series of slides where the images are moved slightly each time in order to design a small animation. This is a very engaging strategy and tool to showcase student learning in a new creative way as they can be done on any curriculum topic. All you do is create your slides, publish to the web, and adjust the timing in the url from delay loop 3,000 to 200. Give it a try!” - Emma Cottier, Saanich School District, (@EmmaCottier) 

What's coming from Google - Pretty cool!
(Thanks to Williams for the heads-up on these features coming soon!) 

Google Photos will soon be able to colorize old photos  You have to watch this short video demo!

The above 3 and a few more were found here: The 10 biggest announcements from Google I/O 2018

Quizzes, now part of Google Earth
Time for Some Geo Guessing
Google Earth launched a multiple-choice quiz where you can test your knowledge of places near and far! With the share to Google Classroom link, you can challenge your students to beat your score. Ready to test your knowledge?

If you are not using the new Gmail - you are mission out!  Here is one more cool feature:
Posted: 14 May 2018 09:12 AM PDT
When your inbox is flooded with emails, some will inevitably slip through the cracks. Luckily, the new Gmail can help. It will now “nudge” users to reply to emails they may have missed and to follow up on emails for which they haven’t received a response.

California Teen Phished His Teachers to Change Grades
Engadget | A student at Ygnacio Valley High School in California created a fake website that looked identical to the school's and then sent emails to teachers in an attempt to get them to sign into his fake site. At least one did, which allowed him to collect their login and password info. He then reportedly used that information to get into the Mount Diablo Unified School District IT network where he then changed other students' grades -- he even lowered some. "It was like stealing candy from a baby," he said. He was arrested on 14 felony counts. Full article here.

💥 Tech tools - Whiteboarding apps, cool tools, new Gmail tips, Google Sheet awesomeness, and more in this weeks tech tips.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Misc. web tools and sites:

This is cool!  - First-Ever 3D VR Filmed in Space | One Strange Rock  (This also works with Google cardboard or other viewers.  If you have not looked at other 360 YouTubes -you can move the video around, give it a try! You can even pause the video and move it around.)  They have a ton of other 360 videos on YouTube. 

Adobe Spark Activities for Elementary Students.  Remember it's free and easy! 

A Hyperdoc Unit That Will Blow Your Mind!   (An extensive lesson with some ideas you can use within your Hyperdocs as well!) 

Here's an awesome tool and tip that our very own Megan Good shared with our High School staff. Our Norris teachers ROCK!  Thanks for sharing this Megan!  Just found a website called  You can use your quizlet sets with it to create a review game for students.  I know this time of year my students are getting a little tired of quizlet, kahoot and even nearpod so this could be something new to share!  For the free version you can create 5 kits, but with how easy it is to set up with quizlet, I may just delete and create new kits if I would need more.

The new Gmail!

5 Powerful New Gmail Features You Need to Start Using Right Now - this is a nice list with screenshots. Also, it shows a few new features coming soon. 

13 Essential Gmail Terms and Features You Should Know About - This is a nice list of settings, apps, and features that may improve your Gmail experience.  

New Coding App/Tool available for teaching: 
This week, Google released a free app called Grasshopper that teaches adults how to code JavaScript on their phones. Grasshopper's courses are quick lessons and games on your phone that teach adults to write real JavaScript, which is used by more than 70% of developers. Grasshopper takes a similar form to apps like Duolingo that teach foreign languages. (We have approved this Android app on our Chromebooks that run Android.) 

Great Whiteboard site!

Easy Chalk - WOW - a bunch of features!  Without logging in (Free) you have a lot of features to use but cannot save what you have drawn. (You could use 3rd-party screenshot tool.) You get some added features when you create an account, but you are only given 30 days free)  
Note- I have added this to my Whiteboard and drawing tools doc along with some other great ones! 

Google Slides:
New features - New in Google Slides: linking in Docs, guides and rulers, and improved commenting. 

Google Forms:

Google Sheets:

WOW New - Think macro: record actions in Google Sheets to skip repetitive work -  Starting today, you can record macros in Sheets and save yourself time!  (This short 1-minute video will give you an idea of how a macro works.  

They have also added some nice formatting features and more!  Check it out - Additional details on the new macro recorder and formatting options in Google Sheets. 

Make checkboxes in Google Sheets! Check it out!

Get more templates in Google Sheets -  Template Gallery and Template Vault are a couple add-ons that will add a few more.  Here are a few sites with some nice templates:


A few good reminders:

Remember - avoid the reply all if it's not needed!  It's fine in many instances - but often you can just send the person a direct email instead of letting everyone know you were kind enough to thank them.  There are times we do want to do a reply all!  Sometimes it's adding a new tip or comment that helps the thread.  But, as much as we love you... maybe it's better to directly email the person if you liked the new dip or cookies that were in the lounge. 

Never fall for a fake pop-up on your screen and "call for support". They want your credit card! They are finding more ways to get your personal info and money. Always be cautious. 

💥 Tech tools - BIG things added this week!!! New Gmail look coming, SPARK tools for EDU!, PBS resources, New file convert added for you... and more in this weeks teck tips email!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Premium Adobe Spark tools are free for education... and you may be the first in the nation to try them out! 

Here at Norris... our network admin (Bryan Williams) ROCKS!  By the time I started to talk to him about this... he had it already set up and ready to go for us! I am guessing there is no other school in the nation that beat us to the trigger.... so be the first to try it out!  This doc will walk you through the step-by-step process to get your account setup and ready to roll. 

A new look and some new features coming to Gmail: 

Google announced there will be a redesign coming soon to Gmail.  Check out this article with a few leaked screenshots to get an idea of what's coming down the pipe soon.

CloudConvert - A new free service added to our domain.   You can now easily convert files right inside your Google Drive. (This service has been added for all staff and HS and MS students.) 

Misc. Tech tools and websites:

What a great web drawing tool!  Check it out --SketchPad's site works with any browser or Chromebook. I have added this to my list in our tech doc: Whiteboard and drawing tools.  

Google Keep:
If you are not using Google Keep - You are missing out!  It works great with our teacher Chromebooks and pens!  Check out our tips sheet to get started!  If you need help getting started... give our Tech Integrationist, Jason Gault, a call at 2010.  He's awesome to work with! 
Google Sites:

The new Google Sites automatically creates an intuitive navigation bar that links to content within your site, but there may be times when you want to create your own links that go somewhere else. That’s why Google is adding a new feature where you can link to any URL from the navigation bar.

The PBS NOVA Labs have some great online resources:
Nova Sun Lab - Despite its apparently steady glow, the Sun is a churning mass of superhot plasma that regularly produces powerful flares and storms that can knock out power and communication systems on Earth. This Lab explores what makes the Sun so volatile and gives you access to the same data, images, and tools that scientists use to predict solar storms.

Cybersecurity Lab - Take cybersecurity into your own hands. In this Lab, you’ll defend a company that is the target of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. Your task is to strengthen your cyber defenses and thwart the attackers by completing a series of cybersecurity challenges. You’ll crack passwords, craft code, and defeat malicious hackers.

Energy Lab - For something we use every day, energy is a pretty mysterious concept. This Lab investigates what energy is, how it can be converted into useful forms, and why some sources are running low. In our Research Challenge, you'll use scientific data to design renewable energy systems for cities across the U.S.—and compete with others to see whose designs can produce the most power.

Cloud Lab - Covering some 70 percent of Earth's surface, clouds play a key role in our planet's well-being. But how do they form, why are there so many types, and what clues can they give us about the weather and climate to come? Try your hand at classifying clouds and investigating the role they play in severe tropical storms.

RNA Virtual Lab - Nature’s best-kept secret is a wonder molecule called RNA. It is central to the origin of life, evolution, and the cellular machinery that keeps us alive. In this Lab you’ll play the role of a molecular engineer by solving RNA folding puzzles. Then take your skills to Eterna, where you can design RNAs that could be at the heart of future life-saving therapies.

SAS Curriculum Pathways have some great K-12 resources- Interactive, standards-based resources in the core disciplines.
Check out their website for more info.  (All free resources.) 


Looking for an engaging Google Slides lesson that you can teach in just 45 minutes? Try out our newest lesson for middle and high school students: Create a Presentation "All About a Topic." Choose any subject you'd like, from "all about my spring break" to "all about the Industrial Revolution"!
Students will learn the basics of Google Slides, including how to:
lightbulb icon
  1. Choose a theme, insert slides, and add a title.
  2. Add images, text, animations, and transitions.
  3. Digitally share and comment.
Google's Applied Digital Skill curriculum has a lot of resources for your classroom!  Check out all of the lessons here. 

💥 Tech tools - New Google digital citizenship resource, cool web tools, nice add-ons and extensions and more in this weeks tech email!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This one hurts:
Google is shutting down URL shortener next year, existing links will keep working.  -Article with more info here. Most of the time, it's awesome news from Google - but this one hurts a little!  I love their shorter and Chrome extension. 

Check out this awesome new online safety website from Google 
It’s called Interland and is free!  Check it out! 

Short 1 1/2 minute video walk-through. 

Did you know this about your Chromebook?
  • -If you just shut the lid, your Chromebook is still draining your battery!  Putting your Chromebook to sleep by shutting the lid is fine, but if you are not going to use it for a while, I would shut it down. 
  • -Shortcuts are awesome - 10 Keyboard Shortcuts Every Chromebook Owner Should Know. (The last one on the list will show you all shortcuts!) 
  • -press Ctrl+ Shift + N on a desktop or Chromebook and you will be using Chrome in incognito mode.  It will not load extensions and does not know who you are logged into Google as. This is very handy for checking out problems with extensions or logging into a personal Gmail inbox. 

Misc. Websites and tech tools:
This one has been a teacher favorite (and one of mine) for many years...  Padlet allows you to save and curate all kinds of links, texts, video, pretty much whatever you want onto one online bulletin board. Now the bad news... They have free and paid plans rolling out.  The free plan limits you to 3 padlets - but still usable for most of us.  5 Alternatives to Padlet. 

Diigo is a social bookmarking tool. I have used this one for many years!  (It's how I save and curate my content.) Not only can you save your bookmarks in the cloud, but you can tag, create groups, and annotate on web pages. It’s also a great tool for older students to curate and research.

Create Magic in your Classroom - Teachers, you and your students can create Augmented Reality Experiences without needing to write any code. Metaverse is a FREE Augmented Reality Platform that is being used by thousands of teachers to build all kinds of interactive learning experiences for their classrooms. (I have not tried this yet, but looks pretty cool.) Here is a playlist of videos to get started with this platform

The most powerful GSuite App you are not using! - Data Studio creates easy to read reports and charts from a number of different data sources (Including Google Sheets.).  These video tutorials will get you started. 

Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week – Create MadLibs With a Google Sheets Template 

Wheel Decide - Paste your name list, etc... spin the wheel.  Great randomizer site. 


SeeSaw is a great communications tool for the K-6 grade levels.  The free version seems to satisfy all teachers needs.(Based on other school and teacher comments)  Give it a try! 

Google Slides:

Google Keep:

It's a GREAT tool! If you are not using it.. give it a try.  (Here is our Google Keep tip's sheet.) 

Google has made it incredibly simple to copy your notes from Keep into Google Docs. Jack Wallen shows you how to make use of this, without having to constantly use Ctl+C and Ctl+V.

Annotate Videos with VideoANT 

It's simple and free.... Add annotations to any publicly accessible YouTube video. Copy the URL of the YouTube and paste it into the VideoANT annotation tool. As the video plays click the "add annotation" button when you want to add an annotation.You are the only person that has to have a VideoANT account...your collaborators do not need to have an account to participate in the annotation process with you. 

Google Sheets:

14 Impressive Things You Can Do with Google Sheets  -Slide 3 is a pretty cool appliction. 

PDF Tools:

Smallpdf has several tools.  It's eSign PDF works for signing documents.  They have a large number of other web/browser-based tools that. They limit you to two free tasks per hour.  (It's based on a cookie they put on your browser, so clearing cache may get you more tasks.) 

PDF Buddy - This browser-based tool lets you sign or edit up to three PDF files every month for free. It’s a good solution if you work with PDFs only occasionally. 

HelloSign - Get 3 documents free per month.  Visit their Google login here.  They also have a Google Doc add-in, but for signing Google docs I would just create a jpg signature pic and insert it into your Google Doc. 

Chrome Extensions:
There are several tools for taking screenshots, and Chromebooks even have some basic ones built right in... but this FireShot extension is worth the look. (We have added it to our list of approved student extensions.) 

New add-ons available in February 2018
February was a dynamic month on Google add-on stores. 35 add-ons were launched (most of them on the Google Sheets add-on store) and 184 were updated.

Among the new add-ons, 5 of them caught our attention. - Check them out!  -Note- Not sure I like their 5 listed, but there are some other great ones at the bottom of the article/list. ~Noel

Cool student activity for the younger grades.  (Distribute with Google Classroom!) 
Qhat better time to have your students work on their creative writing skills with a Springtime-themed writing activity.

Help students through the four-step writing process with these free tools:

Writing Navigator goes beyond identifying what's right and what's wrong. It prompts students to make creative decisions and find the right words in the best order by providing assistance at each of the four steps of the writing process. 
Students get feedback about their writing and begin to think like experienced writers over time. 
Writing Planner helps students generate ideas and organize them into a writing plan.
Writing Drafter transforms the plan into a first draft. It helps students develop sentences, supporting details and transitions. 
Writing Reviser provides feedback that helps students make their sentences more economical, varied, powerful and clear. This popular resource is also available as a Google Docs add-on
In this final stage, students use Writing Publisher to proofread and correct any errors before publishing a polished essay. It can even help with citations.