Monday, December 12, 2016

Why Not Become a Google Certified Educator

As an educator it is always important to continue to learn as a student.  We should model what we expect from our students as much as we can.  They often look to us for inspiration and motivation to do things that they may never attempt without our help.  Many of you already integrate the G Suite of tools into your every day instruction, why not make it official with a certification?  What a great way to remind you of always being a student.  Google offers Google Certified Educator Level 1 and Educator Level 2 certifications.  Follow these links for online training you can complete for free and then register to take the test online.  Contact me at if you would like to learn more.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Online Writing Tools for Students

Are you trying to get your students to improve their writing skills?  Here are some great resources you should share with them and see what they can do.
  1. Pic Lits- is a creative writing site that matches beautiful images with carefully selected keywords in order to inspire you. The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture.
  2. Big Huge Labs- This site contains many tools that you can use for writing and vocabulary lessons.
  3. Comic Creator- The Comic Creator invites students to compose their own comic strips for a variety of contexts. The organizers focus on the key elements of comic strips by allowing students to choose backgrounds, characters, and props, as well as to compose related dialogue.
  4. StorybirdStorybird is a unique language arts tool. Use illustrations to inspire students to write stories: picture books for K-5, longform chapter books for Grades 5-9, and poetry for everything in-between.
  5. The Story Starter- Have no idea what to write about?  Give this a try.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Digital Citizenship: Guiding Our Students to be Responsible Users of Technology

Teaching students to be responsible when using technology is very important in this day and age.  The average student spends about 8 hours interacting with some form of media every day of the week.  Often times they go unsupervised and receive little direction on how to navigate these waters.  Here are some resources that you may find useful as you help students learn about digital citizenship.


This is a collection of videos, games and activities that students can use to learn about computer viruses, conflict resolution, cyberbullying, digital etiquette, media literacy, plagiarism, etc.


In students in grades 1-8 can watch videos about netiquette, safe searching, sourcing and ethics, etc.

Common Sense Media-

Students can find games, stories, and activities here for grades 3-12.  Students can practice online safety and apply citizenship skills.  Here you can find many other resources including iBooks lessons, posters, and videos.


Want your presentation to be more interactive?  Here are some Nearpod presentations on digital citizenship.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Formative Assessment Made Easy with Technology

The last few weeks I've had the pleasure of visiting many classrooms throughout the school district.  As I've seen a variety of instructional strategies used, I couldn't help but think of how technology could aide in student success.  Of course many activities in a classroom can still be successful without technology but how many times are learning opportunities missed or simply impossible unless a teacher takes advantage of technology.  Let's take for example formative assessment.  How many times have you seen a teacher ask a verbal question and just call on one student for the answer or just take answers from volunteers.  Do you really know if ALL students understand?  The performance levels on the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) stress qualifiers of all, consistently, and always. Certainly you can use a variety of offline techniques for gathering this data but if the digital tools are available why not use them?  Here are a few tools that could help with formative assessments.  You can have a presentation prepared ahead of time or make a generic presentation that's ready anytime you need it.

  1. Pear Deck
  2. Nearpod
  3. Kahoot
  4. Google Forms
  5. Plickers
  6. Quizalize
  7. Quizizz

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Still Not Using Google Docs?

Microsoft Word may have all the bells and whistles you could imagine but do you use them? Here are 10 reasons to use Google Docs.

  1. Automatically Save- You don't have to remember to save. It does it for you.
  2. Access Anywhere- You can pull up documents on any Internet connected device.
  3. Instant Updates- You no longer have to send revision after revision to others.
  4. Real-time Collaboration- Work on the same document with multiple people at the same time using the commenting, editing, or suggesting features,.
  5. Use as a Webpage- Publish your document directly as a webpage.
  6. The Research Tool- Easily add images, scholarly information, quotes, tables, etc in your document.
  7. Revision History- See all the revisions that you or others have made.
  8. Easily Share- Give access to anyone else you want to comment, view, or edit the document..
  9. Complimentary Apps- Update your documents using Apple or Google play apps.
  10. Voice Typing- Simply say your text and it will type it.

Start using Google Docs today!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pear Deck for Everyone!

Get ready to see your class come alive with this great interactive tool called Pear Deck. We now have the Premium Version of Pear Deck for all students and staff.  Some of you have been using Pear Deck, Nearpod, Kahoot, Quizziz, and other great tools to share interactive presentations, games, etc with students.  This tool has some very comparable features that I think you will love.  Give it a try and let me know how I can help.

You can learn more here. 

Some of the features included in Pear Deck are:
  • easily import Google Slides, Powerpoint presentations or .pdfs
  • slide decks are automatically saved in Google Drive
  • integration with Google Classroom ( 
  • live presentation paced by the teacher or student-paced
  • works on any mobile device via a web browser
  • variety of question types (drag a dot, draw, write text, choose an answer)
  • add website, images, videos, text, lists, etc
You can also find Pear Desk in Google Drive.  Click New>More>Pear Deck.

Inline image 2

Monday, August 29, 2016

Introducing a New Gmail Experience with Inbox!

Want a fresh experience with your Gmail account? Try Inbox by simply going to Once you go through the tour, be sure to watch this video.

You can also download the apps here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Ed Tech Challenge Summer 2016

As we wrap up another school year, I want to offer these 3 challenges.  Let's see how this can transform your instruction for the future.

Challenge #1- The 4Cs

Learn about the 4Cs for technology integration.  Examine lessons you have conducted and ask yourself, "What role has communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity played?  Have I incorporated the 4Cs in my instruction?  Has technology helped me do that?"

Action:  Modify 2 of your favorite lessons for the beginning of the year that include all 4Cs and share it with a colleague and/or post it on social media.

Challenge #2- Makerspace

Become a maker and prepare to provide your students opportunities to tinker next year.

Action:  Make a project this summer that you can share with your students.  Be prepared to teach them how different skills helped you achieve your goal.  (ex. building a bench requires some design skills, math, etc)

Challenge #3- Sketchnote

So many of us just take notes in sequential order with lists and paragraphs.  Try taking notes using pictures, graphic organizers, etc using some of these great tools. See how your thinking changes.

Action:  Take notes using pictures and graphic organizers that you draw by hand.  These tools may help.  Paper by 53, Penultimate

Have a lot of fun trying these challenges.  I look forward to hearing all about it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: Embed Linked Charts into Docs and Slides

Alright Google!  You can now take data you have in Google Sheets and embed linked charts into Google Docs and Google Slides.  If you update the data in the spreadsheet you can simply click Update on the chart in the Doc or Slide and the new information will be displayed.  Here are the steps for both.
  1. Add data into Sheets and create a chart.  (example below)

  2. Open a new Doc or Slides presentation and click Insert>Chart>From Sheets.

  3. Locate the Google Sheet that contains the chart.

  4. Select the appropriate chart.

  5. If you revise the data in your original chart, the next time you open your Doc or Slide simply click the Update button to get the latest data.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: New Google Slides Q&A Feature

Google Slides now has a handy integrated method for your participants to ask questions during your presentations.  This is how it works on a laptop or desktop.

  1. Click the arrow beside the Present button and select Presenter View.

  2. Click the Start new button.
  3. A web address will appear on the slideshow for your students to visit.

  4. Once the students visit the website they can enter a question giving their name or by being anonymous.

  5. If other students have that same question they can upvote the question.

  6. As a teacher, you can read the question and then present it to the class to discuss.

Google Tip of the Day: Schedule Assignments in Classroom

You can now load assignments in Google Classroom and schedule the time they are released.  Here are the steps.

  1. On the Stream page click the plus sign and then Create assignment.

  2. Type your assignment details and then click the arrow beside the Assign button.  
  3. Select Schedule.

  4. Select the date and time you want the assignment to appear and click Schedule.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Yeah! Synergyse is Now Free!

Get up to speed with Google Apps for Education by using a great tool called Synergyse. This Chrome extension has become so popular the last few years they have officially become part of Google and is now free.  Synergyse is like having a virtual coach inside the Google Apps interface.  It provides voice and text interactive modules that are searchable by topic in the context of the apps you use.

  1. Download the extension here.
  2. Once installed, click the icon in the top right corner to activate it.

  3. This will display a menu of interactive videos from which to choose based on the app you are using at the time.

  4. Listen and follow along to the directions as you watch the video demonstration.

Here is the official announcement.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

National Education Technology Plan: Issues to Address

There are certainly several issues to address to ensure that technology transforms learning for students.  In my last post entitled A Look at the National Education Technology Plan, I introduced the five main components of the plan.  In this post we will briefly review the issues that the plan hopes to address.

Issues to Address

  1. Digital Use Divide- There is a need for the learner to become creators and not just consumers.
  2. Evidence on the Effectiveness of technology-enable programs- Can we truly say a program made an academic difference in learning and meeting the standards?
  3. Effective Approaches of Using Technology- Are students using the correct methods for using technology to truly accelerate and enhance learning?
  4. Out-of-school Learning Experiences- How can we tie informal and formal learning together in and out of the classroom?
  5. Teacher Preparation and Professional Development- How can we better prepare teachers to use technology appropriately?
  6. Assessment Approaches- Are we taking full advantage of how technology can help with assessment including social and emotional learning?
  7. Protecting Student Privacy- How can we provide students with great digital resources while also protecting their privacy?
Do you see other major issues we should address when it comes to educational technology in the coming years?  Please share your thoughts.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Look at the 2016 National Education Technology Plan

The U.S. Department of Education published the 2016 National Education Technology Plan in January 2016.  You can find the full plan here.  In my next few posts I will share my expanded reflections on reading the plan.  Let's first examine the main components of the plan.


Technology integration should be about transformed learning while remaining equitable and accessible to all students.


When appropriately applied, technology can enhance and accelerate teaching practice as well as enable new types of learning experiences.


In order for technology to transform learning and teaching, educational leaders must have a shared vision about how technology can best meet needs of students.


How we measure progress can be greatly enhanced by taking advantage of technology as an efficient means to assess learning.


Both a physical and learning infrastructure must be in place in order to adequately provide the connectivity that learning requires.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: Create a Poll in Classroom

The question feature just got better in Google Classroom.  You can now create a multiple choice poll.  Here are the steps.

  1. Go to
  2. Click the name of the class.
  3. Click the + sign and then Create question.

  4. Type a question.
  5. Change the question type to multiple choice.
  6. Type the answer choices.

  7. Click Ask.
  8. Monitor the answers as they come in.

BrainPop Educator Features

Have you checked out the BrainPop Educator feature yet?  You can find it here.

This is a great place to find lesson plans, materials, training, webinars, and videos based on the TEKS.  You can also find out some good information about how to manage student accounts here.

If you haven't setup your account yet, this may be useful.

Educator Codes (Taylor ISD Employees Only)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: Add Reminders to Your Calendar

It is now possible to add reminders to Google Calendar.  There is a calendar called Reminders in your list under My Calendars.  This allows you to toggle reminders on/off from viewing.

Simply click a box on your calendar and then select Reminder.  Then add the details and click Create.

When the time arrives a message will pop up reminding you of the item.

Click Delete or Mark as Done.

Monday, April 4, 2016

T-TESS: Technology Integration

During the 2016-2017 school year, the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) will be rolled out to all districts in Texas.  Many teachers across Texas will be trained in this new evaluation system this summer.  As we transition to this new system, I will share my thoughts and tips on how technology can support teachers in the context of T-TESS.  Since I'm new to the T-TESS system, I will be learning many things along with you, so your understanding is appreciated.

After examining the Teacher Handbook, it is apparent that in order for technology integration to facilitate and enhance learning outcomes for students, it must be purposefully incorporated in lesson design.  Integrating technology should become a routine practice that is seamless and readily available for students. 

TEA explains that there are four critical elements which must be present to integrate technology effectively.  They include;
  1. Knowledge of Content and the Discipline
  2. Knowledge of Instructional Practices
  3. Knowledge of Technology
  4. Knowledge of Students

What are your initial thoughts about T-TESS and technology integration?  Look for future posts on this topic over the next few months.  Your comments and questions are welcome.

Google Tip of the Day: New Google Contacts Preview

You may not have noticed yet but Google updated the way contacts management works. Here is a video introducing the new contacts feature.

Student Project Showcase: Vision Taylor ISD

Vision Taylor ISD is a district-wide project where students are invited to take photographs and make artwork that best represents each word in our District’s vision statement. 

Mrs. Zavala, Taylor High School's Commercial Photography & Photojournalism teacher leads this project with the students taking art or a digital media class. 

She invites these students along with teachers, parents, and community members to share their interpretation of words from the District’s vision statement. They are encouraged to share via Twitter using the hashtag #VisionTISD. All are invited to follow the project at @VisionTISD

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: EPUB Publications from Google Docs

Google just made the EPUB format available in Google Docs.  That means you can save your Google Docs in a format that will display nicely on a variety of devices.

As an example, once you save a file in EPUB format you can read it with iBooks on a Mac or iPad.  Here are the steps.
  1. Click File>Download as>EPUB Publication.
  2. Double-click to open the file that was downloaded.
  3. iBooks will open the file if the program is installed.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Student Project Showcase

We are happy to introduce a new feature on the Taylor ISD IT Blog called the Student Project Showcase.  Our hope is to post an entry each week of the great projects teachers are doing with students that integrate technology.  We hope this will encourage even more great lessons that incorporate technology. If you would like to make a submission, the form can be found here. .  Stories will be shared on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Google Tips of the Day: Conduct a Privacy Checkup

Along with a regular security checkup in your Google account, it's a good idea to periodically conduct a privacy checkup.  Here are the steps.

  1. Click your profile picture or icon and then click My Account.

  2. In the Personal info & privacy section click Get Started.

  3. Decide on what you want available related to your Google+ Profile and click Next.

  4. Change your settings for Google Photos.  Consider if you want to share your location for each picture you add.  Then click Next.

  5. Select the visibility setting for a variety of activities.  Click Next.

  6. Manage your ads settings if needed.  Click Next.

  7. Click Back to My Account.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: Conduct a Security Checkup

If you have been using Google Apps for awhile, it's a good idea to check your security from time to time.  It's crazy how many services these days that use the login with Google feature. Here are some tips on checking your account.

  1. Click your profile picture and then My Account.

  2. Click Get Started in the section labeled Security Checkup.

  3. This screen will show all the devices in which you use your account.

  4. If you see a device you don't use, you can click Something looks wrong and change your password.
  5. The next screen will show you all the programs you may have connected with your Google account.  Simply click Remove if you no longer want your account associated with those programs.
  6. Click Done and Continue.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: Share YouTube Videos without Distractions

Here are a few methods of sharing YouTube videos in your classroom that may be helpful.

  1. Embed in Google Slides- Create a slideshow at and click Insert>Video.  Search for a video and select it.
  2. Use the YT Full Fill Extension- Add this Chrome extension.  When you find a YouTube video you want to share, click this extension to display it.
  3. View Pure- Simply copy and past a YouTube URL into the box on this site.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Google Tip of the Day: Creating an Image Map with Google Drawings

Google Drawings is a simple program within your Google account that is often overlooked.  Here are some tips on how you can use it to create an image map.

  1. Go to
  2. Click the New button>More>Google Drawings
  3. Go to Insert>Image or create your own using the tools available.

  4. Notice you can insert an image in a variety of ways including uploading a file, importing from Google Drive, or completing a Google search online.

  5. Select the image to insert it on the page.
  6. Using the Polyline tool draw lines around the area you want people to click.

  7. Once the lines are drawn, click the Arrow icon to turn off the feature.
  8. Click the area and then click the Fill Color icon (bucket) and the Line Color icon (pencil) to change it to Transparent.

  9. Click Insert>Link and type the link you want.

  10. Go to a Google Site you have created at and add a page.
  11. Click Insert>Drive>Drawing.

  12. Locate and select the drawing.
  13. Select the size to display the drawing and click Save.

  14. Click Save for the webpage.
  15. Try the links to see if they work.