Noel Erskine, Technology Coordinator Norris Schools

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Why are Google's teachers tests open book? Do we need to learn from them?

Friday, November 30, 2012

A teacher recently sent me a link to this article and pointed me to a section toward the end of the article. 

From this article I read the following excerpt:
"When I was going threw the process of becoming a Google Apps Certified Trainer I was taking the required tests on all the Google Apps. The tests run on Google's own system and once you press start you have 90 minutes to finish. Google also gives you all the training materials which are public and anyone can learn from. So I did what any cheating student would do. I started the test in one browser and then opened up the training materials in another browser. When I came to a question I didn't know the answer to I would quickly search for and find it in the training manuals. Basically an open book test.

As I continued taking the tests I kept asking myself "What is Google after here?" and then it hit me. It's about searching and finding information.
Wow... This is spot on. I love the statement... "So I did what any cheating student would do. I started the test in one browser and then opened up the training materials in another browser." Yep, that is what I would do too! 

I can remember 20 years ago, when they talked about living in the "information age", and did not realize what that meant until several years later, when hundreds of emails fly through my inbox weekly and millions of Tweets and Facebook postings are made daily. So much information, so little time, and so many people that can not find the data or answers when they need it.  I think it's a generational thing.  The best thing you can tell many teachers is... "Just ask your students for help on how to run the __________. (You can fill in the blank with any piece of technology or tool that you want to.) Do not be afraid to asks students for help with technology, and at the same time let's look at those students and figure out ways of delivering content that will reach them as well require them to apply and use the content they can easily find.
My son recently tore a car apart and rebuilt it from the ground up. (He has a couple things to finish, but it's close to getting done!)  He had no automotive classes or training.  How did he do it?? The internet. With a great web site, tutorials, videos, and a car community willing to answer peoples postings and emails... I saw my son become a mechanic, who encouraged me pull a motor and transmission out of one car and drop it into another car. I have done mechanic work in the past, but I never would of been motived to trying it again if it had not been for my son's encouragement and help.  (And yes, that car has been running great ever since!) 
I remember watching a TED video- Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education. If you have not seen this, you need to, it's amazing what kids can do if we get out of their way.

This was blog article I started long ago, and since it's initial start, I have taken all of the Google Certification tests, and yes... I think I used the same technique as described in the original article that spurred this blog posting. Since the tests are time limited, as a student you spend so much time preparing, taking notes, etc... that you learn the curriculum, even though the test is "open book". 

So what does it really boil down to??? 
It's all about information management, problem solving, and becoming a lifelong learner.  What are we doing to foster this in our children?

Amazon's Wispercast for schools -My how-to-guide.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amazon released Whispercast several weeks ago, and I am finally getting time to play around with it. I had signed up our Amazon ebook account with this service, but had not gotten around to looking at the service in detail. I wondered how the school in Florida was managing their Kindle devices in their 1-to-1 deployment last year, and now I know.  I am guessing they were a beta-test site for Amazon.  This service would allow you to easily manage textbooks and documents deployed in a 1-to-1 Kindle deployment in a school district.

With personal Kindle devices, you can purchase a book and have it on up to 6 devices. (Depending on the Author.)  With Whispercast, you purchase a book for every device.  Devices can be grouped together, so if you had 500 Kindles  but 100 Kindles were grouped together in the Whispercast console for the 9th grade, you could purchase 100 books for those devices. Once that book was applied to that device, you can not collect the book and use it on another device. (You could deregister the kindle, thus freeing up that book.)

Direct from Kindle:
If your Kindles are already registered but they are not appearing in your account under Devices, we can help you add them to Whispercast. Just email us the name, email address, and kindle serial number for each account to

If you have Kindles that are not currently registered, you must register them to an existing account, or create a new account for each one in order to receive content via Whispercast. To add them to your Whispercast account and distribute content, go to and click Add User to register them to your users.

More information is available on our help page:

If you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to call us directly at 1-800-369-5661. We are available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time, Monday through Friday.

Some important notes about Whispercast:

  • It's not a book checkout system.  Ebooks can not be purchased and checked in and out to devices.  If you need this service, they recommend contacting OverDrive, which is often used by public libraries.
  • If you have purchased Kindles and want them to become a part of your Whispercast service, you can deregister the Kindle device and then have Amazon register it with your Whispercast account. (See section below)
  • When you purchase new Kindle devices direct from Amazon they will be registered automatically to your Whispercast service.
  • Books assigned to a Kindle can not be un-assigned and then checked out to another Kindle.  The only way to remove books registered to a Kindle is to deregister the device.
  • Documents can be uploaded and distributed along with ebooks. This is a great new feature! Accepted file types are: .pdf; .mobi; .txt; .rtf; .doc; .docx
Using Whispercast with Other Devices or Kindle Reading Applications (Taken from the Whispercast help page.)

If you don't have Kindle devices, you can also use Whispercast to distribute content to free Kindle reading applications on other non-Kindle devices. To distribute content to Kindle reading applications, create or add user accounts as you would for Kindle devices, but do not assign a device to the users. Users can access content sent to their accounts via Whispercast in the Archive folder in their reading applications.

How to register/deregister Kindles:
From, you can register or deregister via the Manage Your Kindle page (

From your Kindle, select Home > Menu > Settings > Register or Deregister.

Miscellaneous Educational Resources 11-27-12

Free Holiday Christmas Album
Free Green Hill Christmas Music Sampler w/ 12 songs available today:  (From Amazon!) (Saves right to your Cloud storage.)

And for the younger kids ... Have you grabbed these free children's music samplers from Amazon? Lots of fun songs:

Some great web sites!
AMAZING site for math teachers K-12!  A+ Click Math Skills Tests : (Web site works great on iPads too!)

Use Z-Type to have your students practice keyboarding in a fun way:

For the music teachers out there.... iNudge is a fun little web-based application that allows users to experiment with sounds and

Some nice YouTube resources
Did you know that YouTube has editing tools??? Here's a Quick Start Guide for Using YouTube's Editing Tools

Simple way to search for, clean up, download you tube video:

Google+ resources  (Remember, we now have this for the Google Apps K-12!!)

Here's the Gooru's guide and how to start a Google+ hangout along with some cool features you can use in Hangouts.

Via Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) ... This is the coolest use of Google+ that I've seen. Google+ Hangout Virtual Scavenger Hunt in the Palace of…

Want a "pick-me-up" for why I teach?
A wonderful video behind what teachers make every single day in the classroom!…

Google Chrome resources:

Realtime Board's Chrome App Makes Online Brainstorming Easier

A Chrome Fun Zone For Kids – Part 2

Miscellaneous resources

Top 11 apps for the Nexus 7: Fall 2012 edition
The iPad mini may have grabbed most of the 7-inch tablet headlines recently but Google's Nexus 7 is still going strong, and may be the best tablet yet for the money.  These apps will help owners get the most out of the Nexus 7. Read more

FREE iPad app/book from Don Tapscott (@dtapscott): New Solutions for a Connected Planet

Free iPad App -- Living Lung - A 3D Interactive Model of the Lungs

10 Google Search Tips All Students Can Use

iPad: Bringing the joy of reading back to those with vision problems
A new study investigating the use of electronic reading devices shows that using the iPad for reading brings the joy of that pastime back to those with vision loss due to disease. Read more

Miscellaneous Educational Resources 11-26-12

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Google+ just released! Our early Thanksgiving present to EDU.
Google+ is now open for K-12 Google Apps. We have enabled it for all teachers here at Norris. (We can enable it for students if staff have a need for their students to use this service, but that will come at a later date for our Norris Google Apps.) I just put together a quick overview in this blog article:  We will be putting together a few inservices for this in the next several weeks, so watch your emails! 

Some great websites and tools for education. 

IOS apps anyone? Some more great apps for your IOS (iphone/iPad) devices. 

If you have not seen the Nearpod app, now is the time! Check out this nice article: How The Nearpod iPad App Changed An Entire School 

Some Android tools for your Android Phones or Tablets:

For the more advanced Google users ....  here  is a script to manage student projects in Google Docs. Doctopus. 

A couple amazing web 2.0 tools you have to check out!!!
I may think I may of saved the best for last in this posting, these are amazing!!!! 
  • Remix web content - video, maps, links, text, etc. using PopcornMaker: Check out the TED video to watch it work 
  • Dynamic,math,paper,graph,interactive,teacher,tools from Illuminations by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics -- Check it out!!! (Does not work from an iPad) 

Google+ one more amazing free tool for schools!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Google+ was just released to the K-12 Google Apps customers on 11-16-12. This service can be controlled by your Google Apps administrator through the control panel. You can select what users or groups are allowed to have this service.

What does Google+ bring to the plate for the K-12 market?
  • Picasa Gets Unlimited Storage for Photos & Videos read more about this feature.
  • Google+ apps on your phone can automatically back up your pictures to Picasa
  • Google Hangouts may be the best video conferencing solution out there... and it's free!
  • Top Ten Google+ Features from
  • Tight integration within the Google Apps for EDU product and control panel.
  • Picnik is BACK!!! Yes, you can edit your photos once you upload them to Picasa. Picnik was an online photo editor used by many teachers, but now it's back if you enable Google+

For the Google Apps managers: You can enable Google+ for all / some of your org units by following the instructions in our Google Help Center article  and  Considerations before enabling Google+

VIDEO: What is Google+ (Google Plus) and do I need it?  Targeted for the individual consumer, but good 3 minute overview of Google+

VIDEO: Here's the Gooru's guide and how to start a Google+ hangout along with some cool features you can use in Hangouts.

Google has created resources for teens, parents, and teachers to learn more about how to use G+ in a fun, smart, and safe way. Welcome to the Google+ Safety Center

Google+: The Complete Guide (On Mashable)

Excellent Teacher Tips on The Use of Google Plus in Education

10 ways to use Google Plus in the classroom

20 Awesome Google+ Tips for Teachers

Communities, will they replace groups?
Google+ Communities Makes It Easy to Create a Discussion Group
Google Plus Communities Show Promise for Education Article
Google+ Communities for Educators Video  <--- Great 5 minute video to watch.

  • Postings to communities show up on the community page (Publicly) but not on your stream to your circles, etc...
  • Private communities can be controlled by who joins and who posts.  (Can anyone say... "Create a community for a class!")

Hangouts - amazing online meeting tool for education! 
I think the single best feature of Google+ is the amazing video conferencing capabilities in hangouts. including sharing desktops, presenting YouTube videos, collaborating on documents, and more! You can even bring anyone into the conference by calling their phone (Free of charge I might add).

Ready to start broadcasting? (Make sure you have Google+) To get started simply:

Go to
Give your hangout a name and invite the people you want to join you in the hangout.
Select the option to Enable Hangouts On Air.
Once everyone's in the hangout and you're ready to go live, click Start broadcast at the top of the screen.
Once you click Start broadcast, you're officially "On Air" and the public will be able to watch your live hangout.

If you start a hangout and check the box to have it on air, this allows you to record and edit the hangout and post it on a website for later use.  Hangouts On Air common questions 

Specs and limits of Hangouts
Google+for Education Edition: G+ can now be enabled as a service for all Education Edition Domains. 
The size of Hangouts for G+ Premium feature domains has been increased from 10 to 15 participants (including host).
 If you activate Google+ premium features, you can have 15 participants for both Hangouts and Hangouts On Air. Make sure you have the video and voice plug-in installed. (It will install it for you, when you first enter a hangout if you do not have it.) If you enable it to be on air, then an unlimited number can view the hangout. Enabling the on air option also allows you to record, edit and post the entire recorded hangout to YouTube.

Miscellaneous Educational Resources 11-15-12

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some great web sites and web resources

Great livebinder - Math Apps IOS (Notice they use another nice Web 2.0 tool - Livebinders to put together this list.) 

10,000 Newspapers On Google Maps - NewsPaper Map

Infuse Learning is a free student response system that works with any Internet-connected device:

STUDENT FILE MANAGEMENT WITH GOOGLE DRIVE - A great document on setting up shared folders with students and classes.  Covers all the methods, pros and cons, and includes YouTube video tutorials. 

bibliography and citation tools for students  Remember, one of these, EasyBib, we have incorporated right into Google Apps and it's available via the drop-down menu. 

Have you used Diigo for bookmarking? If not, it's probably the one you should be using for bookmarking websites.  It offers a lot of research tools as well, including highlighting on web sites, putting notes on sites, and more.  Check out this great resource on Diigo. 

Math Lessons Using Google SketchUp  (We do have licensing for Google Sketchup for Norris.) 

Top 10 smartphone apps for students - Daily Californian 

More IOS (iPad/iPhone) apps:

Grafikal is a powerful graphing calculator for your iPhone and iPad. Use its custom keyboard to quickly enter the variables and equations you need to draw a graph. The graphs can then be displayed in old fashioned 2d axis graphs or viewed in 3D. With iCloud support, any mathematician should take a closer look at this app.

Miscellaneous Educational Resources 11-7-12

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Web sites and resources for staff and students

 Good math website for young pre-algebra learners 

GmapGIS is a free tool for marking and drawing on maps without having to create or use a Google account:

Another nice feature from Diigo - make a slide show from websites and embed your RSS feed:

50 Apps Students Will Be Using In Your Classroom - Edudemic Article

Using Twitter???  TeachThought-- The Complete Guide To Twitter Hashtags In Education  

Are you teaching kids tech skills? If not... you/we are probably failing them.  Do not make assumptions, many of us find are finding this true! The Fallacy of Digital Natives. 

6435 Free PowerPoint Templates and Backgrounds by Presentation Magazine.  But Wait! We do not have PowerPoint anymore.  Well, these dowload as PPT files, but remember OpenOffice as well as Google Docs will use and/or convert these to their formats as well. 

Free Graphing Calculator anyone?
This baby works through a web browser, and works on iPads, Chromebooks, etc.... New features added to free Desmos online graphing calculator; great for your BYOD program:  (The Chrome app is here).

Speaking of Graphing calculators -- Google Is Now a Graphing Calculator! 

Split Google Chrome into two windows with Tab Scissors - Ghacks Technology News

20 Little-Known Web Resources For Teachers…   It includes... SumDog for math games,  SumoPaint - Amazing drawing tool right from your browser, AWW (A free Whiteboard), and More! 

Some nice IOS (iPad/iPhone) apps, tips, and more!

A list of 10 iPad resources and 5 Smart Phones (Mobile Learning Devices) resources from The Mobile Native blog, by Scott Newcomb.  His list includes these gems and more: TCEA's list of resources.    This includes their list of iPad Apps Separated by Subject Area. (We have shared this in the past!) 

These are some amazing bookmarklet to add to your iPhone/iPad.  Useful Bookmarklets for your iPad and iPhone. Make sure you read the directions to get these to work properly!!!

A free iPad App for the day!

Free IOS App for a limited time: 
Coin Math  Great for teaching kids Money Counting skills and math. 

And something to Ponder... 
I follow an assistant professor at Iowa State, Scott McLeod (@mcleod), who recently put this tweet out, hopefully none of us fall into this category at Norris.  "Majority of Teachers Take No Responsibility For Lack Of Student Classroom Engagement short 2 minute read. 

Some nice tools to manage information overload for you and your students.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let's face it, we are living in a time of "information overload".  There are a lot of ways you can manage archiving these resources for later. In the early days, it was the simple bookmark within a browser. If that simple bookmark serves your need, then use that feature, but there are many other ways that may be better for today's needs.  I will cover just a few of these to open your eyes to these services, and then concentrate on one called Instapaper.

Send articles to your Kindle.  Did you know that you can email things to your Kindle and have them appear just like a book.  I do not have a Kindle, but do use the Kindle apps on my iPad and Android devices.  I was excited about this prospect, until I found out that you must have a Kindle device (and not just the apps) to have an email address to send articles and attachments to.  So after spending some time and hoping to do this... I soon dropped this avenue for my uses.  If you do have a Kindle, and this works for you...start emailing articles to your Kindle...and check out this Chrome extension and web service:

This service is like bookmarking on steroids, so use it instead of bookmarks. You can bookmark web sites, highlight content on the page, add sticky notes on the page and more.  I use this service, and love it for what it is.  For saving clutter-free web reading articles, use the Instapaper or Evernote. But for bookmarking and tagging websites, this service is great.  Make sure you add the Diigo Chrome extension:

This is an amazing service that offers a lot more features than just web information archiving.  If you are not using Evernote, you need to look at this full featured service.  It does many things well, including web article archiving for reading or archiving for future use. There are many features offered with the free service, including a fair amount of upload each month.  This company is here to stay, and definitely worth a look. Even if you do not use Evernote for this feature, make sure you check out the Chrome extension called "Clearly"  This apps make it a pleasure to read an article from a web page.

Read articles later. Three similar services: 
Unlike Evernote, Instapaper does one thing, and that is to save website articles for easily reading at a later time. No more flashing adds, hard to read articles, or trying to find them again, just the simple article archived for later reading. They have some great tools and offer a free web site where you can view your articles you have "clipped", or you can purchase an app for your iPad/iPhone. But for me, the best feature is that it supports Flipboard. (So do Pocket and Readability, apps you will see in a moment.)  (Flipboard is one of the best apps ever for the iPad.) (They also support Google Reader, which is a popular news reader.) Get the Google Chrome extension or add the Read Later bookmarklet and start saving those pages to read later. Apps and services are here:

Pocket (Formerly Read It Later) Similar to Instapaper, but it's Free!  They have some great apps for this service:

Readability Another service Similar to Instapaper, and it's Free as well!  Their app list and services are impressive:  Their Chrome extension is amazing.  It allows you to save your article to your Kindle, or download it as an ebook (ePub format) as well.

Which of the three do I select???  Well, a while ago, Instapaper was the only choice, but right now I think Either Pocket or Readability may be the best choice.  They seem to have a large user base, are free and offer a ton of apps and service add-ins.  I recommend Readability because I use it and love all of it's great features.

Miscellaneous Educational Resources 11-5-12

Monday, November 5, 2012

Web and general educational resources
***Look at this one for sure ---> If you have never used this site... This is the Gem of the year for you! Cybrary Man's Educational Web Sites  The internet catalog for students, teachers, administrators & parents. Over 20,000 relevant links personally selected by an educator/author with over 30 years of experience

Inspiring Apps and web resources --  60 great apps and sites.  This is a great slide show/deck with some great websites.  I highly recommend teachers to take a look at these great resources.

If you want to poll your audience... but do not have clickers.... this is a Great tool!  And the basics are all free:   And if you are looking at Clicker functionality that can be used from a website or apps for IOS and Android... remember Designed as a student response system (Think clickers) can also use it as an audience response system too. 

Message your class ....  A safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents. Free. No Cell numbers are shared, it uses a code to "join" your text list. Check it out: (I have mentioned this one in the past!) 

If you are a  elementary (or Possibly a middle school) teacher and have not tried this simple classroom behavior management site out... you are missing one great tool!  All it takes is your computer and projector and 10 minutes to setup your account and classroom and you are ready to go.  Give it a try...  I am pretty sure many of you will find this to be a great behavior management tool.    As I recently Tweeted... "Elementary teachers that have not used this free behavior mgt tool are missing out. rocks  #nebedu #edchat"

Into using QR codes?  Then this sight might be a great one for creating and managing them, including reports and analytics. 

One Hundred Free Books for Your Kindle

Want some great open educational resources to develop your first ebook or help with putting together your curriculum or online class or website???  Read my latest Blog article:  "Open Educational Resources (OER) may assist the 1to1 and ebook initiatives in schools 

Finding Free Web Apps Made Easy!  AppAppeal is the most comprehensive directory of web apps. (Well, that's what they claim anyway..... I am not sure about that, but it's a pretty good list anyway.) They offer quality reviews and comparisons so you can discover the best web apps. Apps are ranked by worldwide popularity.

A nice iPad site with links to apps by building level:

A Chrome Extension that allows the PowerSchool grade book on a Chromebook!

Rndr enables you to use Chromebook and the Chrome browser to seamlessly access web applications that require Java, Silverlight, Flash, Shockwave, GoToMeeting and other plugins normally used with Internet Explorer. May not work 100% on every site, but does seem to work for our PowerSchool Gradebook and some other sites. Thanks to Josh Murtaugh for finding this one!

Remember, for Norris Staff your Google Drive under the shared folder called "Norris Tech Docs and Info STAFF SHARE" there are several great docs on Google Chrome and some great extensions you will want to look at.  Here is just one of them: Chomebooks, extensions and the Google Chrome browser.

More Google Resources:

The Google Apps for Education Recorded Webinars page, has some nice recorded sessions on a variety of topics. 

Some resources for staff: 

This article has several great resources for teachers including lesson plans, video lessons and more. 

Open Educational Resources (OER) may assist the 1to1 initiatives in schools.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

As we look to eBooks and digital curriculum we often discuss 1to1 device initiatives. Having a similar and accessible device in every student's hands only makes sense in incorporating eBooks and digital curriculum across a district. As with any technology, costs start entering into the discussion as well.  After reading a recent article in Digital Directions, called "Open Educational Resources Surge", my response was "of course the are!"  With state standards prevalent across the nation and increased Internet availability, most districts see the eBooks and student digital devices coming.

I figured I would put together a quick list of some OER resources from this article as well as a few other sources that can assist districts with developing their own ebooks and digital curriculum.

GooruLearning  is a OER collection that also will tie into your Google Apps domain, for those schools that are Google Apps customers.  (Not sure why all schools are not!)  This is their self description: "Use Gooru to search, study and create. You can search for and study from individual resources, collections (teacher-vetted playlists of multimedia resources), and formative quizzes created by educators in the Gooru community. You can also share your knowledge on a topic you are passionate about by creating a collection. We celebrate and encourage authorship and sharing of Open Education Resources (OER), and are stringent about excluding inappropriate content from Gooru."

Curriki is an online community for creating and sharing curricula and teaching best practices. Curriki:
Provides High Quality Free Resources – Curriki contains over 46,000 free K-12 lessons, units, assessments, and multimedia learning resources across all subject areas.

MYOER  You do not have to be from Michigan to use this resoure! Join your fellow Michigan educators who are already part of the Michigan Online Resources for Educators (MORE) community. Registration is FREE! As a member, you will have access to over 60,000 high-quality, online resources. You will also have free access to convenient tools and applications to make you more efficient in planning for your classroom while meeting the Michigan Content Expectations. More details about these online tools are included below. Why not join?

OERcommons  ISKME created OER Commons, publicly launched in February 2007, to provide support for and build a knowledge base around the use and reuse of open educational resources (OER). As a network for teaching and learning materials, the web site offers engagement with resources in the form of social bookmarking, tagging, rating, and reviewing.

Khan As described on their site: "The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere."

Thinkfinity  (Formally Marco Polo) has been around for a while.  Thinkfinity is the Verizon Foundation’s free online professional learning community, providing access to over 60,000 educators and experts in curriculum enhancement, along with thousands of award-winning digital resources for K-12 — aligned to state standards and the common core.  Their mission: CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to high quality educational materials for K-12 students all over the world. We offer free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in the STEM subjects. By providing these free resources, CK-12 is working toward educational equity for all.

Other resources worth looking at:
Amazon's Wispercast for schools to manage Kindles and Kindle eBooks.