• Saving the Best for Last

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 5/11/2018 7:00:00 AM

    If you have bought into any of the google apps and extensions knowledge I’ve shared this year, you’ve likely seen the name, Alice Keeler.  If not, let me introduce you. Alice Keeler is a mom, teacher, author, Google Certified Innovator, and among many other things, a total rock star.  She started a blog in 2010 with posts related to the ways in which Google was likely going to blow our minds, and she was spot-on.  She continues to write regular blogs from beginner to advanced level strategies to implement Google functions into education. She has since developed at least 11 extensions (found here), more add-ons and templates than I can imagine, books and training opportunities galore.  

    We will soon embark on summer break and our plans include setting off into the sunset to enjoy copious amounts of free-time…..  In reality, we begin the planning process for the 2018-2019 school year. We assess our effectiveness and question our methods for continued growth. We research, we train, we collaborate, and we think about and worry about our students.  As we do these things, I have a suggestion, seek out Alice Keeler and her magical world of “Google-ness” at Teacher Tech with Alice Keller.  I am quite confident that you will be rejuvenated with innovative ways to incorporate many of her ideas into your storehouse and enter another year with a little spring in your step.  Imagine just one site for blog posts and tips, Apps and Extensions, Workshops and Training Opportunities, and a massive EdTech Tools list with ideas on how to use them all. Alice Keeler is a phenomenal resource that cannot be done justice in this small article.  

    “HOME.” Teacher Tech, www.alicekeeler.com/.

     Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Voiced Corrections

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 4/20/2018 7:00:00 AM

    I have the opportunity to visit a large number of classrooms within our districts on a weekly basis.  It is easy to see the advances in education that are occurring and have occured over the years that the “traditional classroom” is  harder to define. What was once just one teacher, students and a chalkboard, now includes 1:1 devices, Smart boards, document cameras, and various other tools.  Students used to handwrite their compositions that were returned with those dreaded red marked pages that seemed to beg for a tourniquet. Now, students compose their works on a device.  Teachers then make suggestions and comments to the side for quicker and easier accessibility for the student to make changes prior to final grading. Despite the device-centered nature of the education world, I remain comforted by the fact that many teachers actively seek ways to interact with their students and the app Kaizena is a great example.

    The app, Kaizena,  facilitates a personal interaction between the teacher and the student.  Rather than typing corrections or suggestions within a student’s work, teachers have the ability to speak their suggestions.  Students can then respond and have personalized, confidential support from their teacher. If the instructor sees a consistent error, they can import a video of a past or current lesson speaking to that particular concern.  Not only does this keep the needs of the individual student paramount, but it also takes away the interpretation of text between parties. We have all inferred the tone of a text message incorrectly, but with vocal tone and inflection present, the true nature of the message can be better understood. The possibilities of this app in a foreign language class seem endless.  It may require some training for students and teachers, the but benefits seem to outweigh the negatives.

     Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Audio Books and the Never Ending Road Trip Home

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 4/6/2018 7:00:00 AM

    My family and I took a trip to the beautiful beaches of Sarasota, FL on this recent Spring Break.  Both of my children were provided tremendous incentives from their teachers to read while on their vacation.  When your mom is also a teacher, those incentives are not thought to be optional. So in the car they went, toting their current books of choice.  There is one issue that I had not yet considered, my daughter gets car sick and reading tends to intensify this matter. We were not yet to the Kentucky border before I realized the fault in my plan.  However, she had an idea to save the day and we began our search for the audio version of the book.

    Prior to this trip, I would expect a student to have a copy of the text and the audio version available to them but this situation did not warrant that.  She sat in the back seat and listened to her book while I read my own in the front seat, at least for the first five minutes. Then, the interruptions began.  She stopped me for every plot twist, details that she found interesting, funny parts that she wanted me to know. By about the fifth or sixth time that she paused to share her excitement, I realized that while I would have liked for her to have access to the print version, it did not aid in her comprehension.  Her confidence level grew exponentially as she understood the story and her excitement to share her completion of the task requested by her teacher was monumental.

    audio books


    Parents, I know you are wondering how much this cost me.  I generally like to share options that are free and honestly, this was not.  However, you can get a free 30 day trial on the Google Extension Audio books by Audiobooks.com.  Following that 30 day free trial, it is $14.95 per month and with that you get the credits for one free book a month and can purchase additional credits for more books.  They also have the option to buy gift cards, birthday and Christmas ideas, anyone? Amazon also provides Audible with many free available titles and even more for Prime and Kindle Unlimited members but her series was not available.  Free, no…… Worth it, absolutely! Not only did she learn, but my previous notion that text was necessary was trampled by the outcome that listening gave her all she needed.

     Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Text to Speech for All

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 3/9/2018 7:00:00 AM

    Texthelp, Read & Write

    Have you ever written something, read it numerous times, felt that it was good, and later discovered a glaring error?  Of course you have! When we read our own works, we have a tendency to read it with a familiarity that causes us to overlook various mistakes. However, if we (deleted text) hear someone else read that same composition we discover that our mistakes can stick out like a sore thumb.  

    I use an extension from texthelp called Read & Write to assist me in writing.  Read & Write has been around for quite some time and you’ve likely already heard of it.  Some of the features offered are free even after the 30 day trial and I want to focus on just one on those features for this article, text to speech. Text to speech can be used on almost all devices completely free of charge for an unlimited amount of time. As educators we tend to think of apps and extensions (deleted text) solely for specific student purposes and text to speech can be used in ample ways for those objectives.  I urge you venture beyond specific students to examine ways they can assist all individuals.  I have highlighted my corrections in red text to show you how much of a difference it made to hear my article aloud using “US Samantha Standard-Vocalizer” in Read & Write.  I assure you, it is not just for struggling students.

    RW Text Help

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Visual Preferences for Digital Reading

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 2/23/2018 7:00:00 AM

    There are few things better than a really good book.  I am not one that prefers a physical book to a digital one as long as the story holds my interest.  When I received my first Kindle, I soon realized that I prefered a black or ecru background to a white one and that some added space between lines made reading so much more enjoyable.  I would pick up a physical book after reading in my prefered style on my Kindle and find it more difficult to read.  

    In schools, students are now toting Chromebooks and devices down the hall rather than books.  They are reading books, articles, essays, and research related to their studies in digital formats much more frequently than utilizing a paper copy. We have more control over our desired print settings now.   I have found that while using the Visor extension, I can highlight and color text to my personal preferences.   Changing the background color and adjusting the size of the highlighting bar makes my eyes really happy.  I still enjoy a good paperback at times, but with the help of Visor I can keep my place and read easier than I ever did on a screen before.

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Connection via Google Drive

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 2/9/2018 7:00:00 AM

    As a parent, I often wonder just what my children are learning in school. Although I appreciate the current movement in both of my kid’s schools to limit homework, I am torn between celebrating more quality time with them and feeling left out of their educational experiences.  Google has been instrumental in bridging that gap between home and school.  Having access to google drive from any device has changed many of our lives for the better. Forgot that assignment?  Need access to something unexpectedly?  Got it!!

    We can save just about anything to our google drive with the extension cleverly named, Save to Google Drive.  If children are reading an interesting article and want to show someone later, they can simply click on the icon and save it to their drive.  Of course, this can also be utilized for homework.  Students may need to expand on their learning outside of the school setting.  They can access the same material to re-read something, have it read aloud, or explained in further detail. When the icon to save is selected the option to change the name is given at that point for increased accessibility.

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • "Memorize" It

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 1/26/2018 7:00:00 AM

    Both of my children are assigned a set of terms each week for school.  They are given Greek and Latin stems, and words as well as a spelling list.  While I am aware that memorization is not always the point, sometimes it is necessary. So, we get to work utilizing several ways to help them memorize these lists including old fashioned flash cards, my husband and I quizzing them and even using Quizlet.  If you don’t know what Quizlet is yet, I really do urge you to check it out.  Students can create their own e-flashcards to study.  Once the list of words and their definitions are entered they can play games, study, and even take assessments to prepare for upcoming tests at school.  I tend to prefer the quicker study session because, let’s face it, we are all busy in the evenings.  But sometimes they need more practice than a 5 minute cram session.  That is when I like to sneak in Memorize.  

    Memorize is a google extension that works simultaneously with other computer tasks that my children enjoy.  I can enter a list of words or other academic material into Memorize and set a time interval.  As my children work (play) on the computer, pop up notifications will quiz them on the information that I’ve entered.  If they answer the question correctly the first two times, that question or term will disappear.  This process will continue until all the terms are memorized.  They get screen time, mommy gets some mommy time (don’t judge) and we all win in the end!

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Workflow Resolutions in the New Year

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 1/12/2018 7:00:00 AM

    The start of the calendar year comes with a list of to-do’s that may have been postponed from December.  As teacher’s, we may have one day to address as many of those items before adding more to them when students return.  If maintaining productivity is one of your resolutions, getting back to a strict workflow can be difficult after having a couple weeks of techy freedom.  Did anyone check out the after Christmas online sales, keep in touch with friends on your favorite social media site,  or check out funny youtube videos? Yeah, me either.  Fortunately, I have a couple of chrome extensions to get our focus back on and keep it there.

    Strict Workflow allows you to personalize your internet confinement.  If Amazon is your nemesis, type it in the box of blocked sites, set your workflow timer to a time that works best for you and give yourself time for a short break.  But, be ready, because once that timer starts, you can’t make changes!



    Forest: stay focused, be present, works in much the same way.  You can create a blacklist of sites that are off limits, but also create a whitelist of allowable sites. You begin by planting a seed.   If you venture away from your allowable sites, your planted seed will wither and die.  Successful focus will create a beautiful tree.  Furthermore, the extension has paired with an organization Trees for the Future that will plant live trees when you spend virtual coins you’ve earned and it is changing lives around the globe.  

    Add one of the extensions to Chrome and get back to doing great things!

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • Ingenuity and Beyond

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 12/8/2017 7:00:00 AM

    I wanted to take a break from specific Chrome Extensions and Apps to promote a more imaginative  approach to using a few tools.  Teachers are notorious for their ingenious uses of some of the simplest of gizmos.  I get the opportunity to visit a great number of classrooms each year and am continually amazed by wonderful teachers implementing simple gadgets in numerous ways.  Here are a few goodies that I trust you can utilize in infinite ways within the educational setting.  

    Dice Thrower or Really Good Dice

    Flip A Coin

    Noise Thermometer

    Timebox++ or Timer

    Rock Paper Scissors

    Simple Random Number Generator Extension

    Magic 8 Ball

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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  • “InsertLearning” Here

    Posted by Tai Botkin on 11/16/2017 7:00:00 AM

    You’ve assigned an article to read on an ever-debated topic.  Whether that topic be the quality of school lunches, the need for additional recess time, later school start times or any other highly opinionated subject, students are bound to form their own thoughts related to it.  Ideally, you want to highlight a few selected areas in the article for a specific focus.  It would help to be able to ask specific questions related to that article and promote thought provoking discussion for an upcoming class.  With InsertLearning those are only a few of things that you can do to create a great lesson.  You may:

    • Highlight text in three different colors
    • Insert sticky notes within text, YouTube links, embed links or video yourself providing more information.
    • Ask a question and specify the point base of that question.  Students can respond and see other student’s answers.
    • Create a discussion and choose which class or classes may respond
    • Assign on Google Classroom
    • Share with other teachers
    • Edit lesson information
    • Get help with lesson templates, your first lesson, lesson ideas, creating a lesson, grading, setting up a class, and help for students
    • Go to your dashboard where all your lessons can be stored for future use and view additional examples.  

    Feel free to start now with a free 30 day trial.  If you run out of time you can share it with others for additional free time.  Or, you can pay $8/month or $40/a year for access to great collaborative lessons.  

    Tai Botkin Tai Botkin, Teacher for Deaf and Hard of Hearing

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