Category Archives: Tech Tools

New Google Sites

Example of google sites header

While Google has put out some great tools in other areas, Google Sites has always been a bit lacking.  It is difficult to create sites that are visually appealing and many end up looking like something straight out of the ’90s.  Not anymore!  The totally rebuilt version of Google sites is intuitive, simple to use, and makes clean, modern looking websites.

What’s new in the rebuild?

Real-time collaboration – The new sites will function just like any other google product – allowing multiple collaborators to work on the site at a time.  Currently, multiple people can edit a site, but only one at a time.  This opens up better possibilities for students using this tool as well.

Drag and drop design – In the new version, you will see a sidebar that provides all of your options for adding content to your page.  No more complicated menus.  Simply click to add a new text box or image, resize it, and move it wherever you’d like.

Responsive Design – As you design, you can view what the site would look like on a mobile tablet or phone.  The design will adjust based on the device being used, so content will still look nice and be accessible regardless of the device. If parents are accessing your classroom website on their phones, it will be much easier to use.

More to come – While the new sites is much simpler to use, it also means that are fewer features than in classic sites.  Google will be adding in additional features in the future, but we will have to wait and see what those include.

What about my current site?

Migration tools to transition classic sites to new sites will be coming out in 2017.  Gradually, classic sites will be eliminated in 2018/19, but Google will provide at least a year’s notice of this change.  If you would like to transition your site prior to this, you will have to do so manually by copying and pasting or recreating content from your classic site.

Quick Introduction Video

If you are looking for something a little more detailed try this New Google Sites Tutorial.

How do I access it?

Google sites is now built right into your Drive.  Once you are in your Drive, Click New > More> Google Sites.Create a new site from DriveYou can also go to the sites app in your grid or  When creating a new site, make sure you choose New Google Sites from the left.Choose new google sites when creating a siteHow can I use this?

This new version of sites is a simple way to create a classroom webpage for parents or to post information for students.   Maybe even more importantly, it can be a great tool for students to build a portfolio, demonstrate learning in a different way, and share their work with a wider audience.


Plickers – Quick Feedback Through Student Response

There are numerous ways to gauge student understanding during a lesson, both with the use of technology and without.  Many of you are already using platforms like Socrative, Kahoot, Quizziz, or Poll Everywhere, which allow students to use their own devices to respond to polls or questions that help assess understanding and keep students engaged.  These systems can also provide a voice for students who are reluctant to speak up in class and allow teachers to adjust instruction on the spot while providing anonymity to the students who are struggling with the concept.

What about a classroom where not everyone has access to a device? What about younger students?  It can take a chunk of time to get them to the correct interface to provide a response like this.

Plickers is a free alternative which does not require students to have devices.  Rather, each student gets a card with an image on it.  The direction that they hold these cards indicates their answer choices, and only the teacher needs a device to scan these cards.


Students hold up the cards to indicate their answer, and the teacher scans the room using the Plickers app on their phone or iPad.  The answers appear on a graph as they are scanned, and questions and responses are also saved for the teacher to reference later.  The cards are numbered and can be assigned to specific students, so the teacher can look at data on a per student basis to determine individual student needs.

Getting started is easy.  Print the Plickers cards from their website, download the app and create an account, create your class, and write your questions.

The resources below walk you through getting started with Plickers.

Plickers Website Tutorial

Getting Started Guide

Stay Organized with Keep

keepWe all have different ways to stay organized, notifications on our phones, lists, post-it notes (way too many post-it notes)!  I have found Google Keep to be a helpful tool for my various lists and notes.  Keep is a Google app that is available within your school account:  I keep it open in a tab all day so that I can check off tasks as I finish them.  It’s also an app on my phone so I always have it with me.

It’s simple to use.  Create a note, title it, and start writing.  You can write a note or add checkboxes to mark off tasks as you go.  Other features:

NotificationsReminder for Keep

You can set a notification based on a date and a time to be reminded, or choose a location.  When you arrive at that location, the reminder will be activated.


Organize and Search

When you create a note, you can give it a background color and tags to easily find it later.  You can also search your notes by keyword or filter based on a variety of things.  To keep your notes visually organized, you can drag and drop notes to exactly where you want them.


CollaborateKeep (1)

As with other Google services, you can share notes so that you and your team can stay on the same page.  If the information in the note gets to be too much, you can copy it to a Google Doc instead.  Just open the note and click on the overflow menu (three dots).  It gives you the option to Copy to Google Doc.  That’s it!


Voice Memos

With the phone app, you can take voice memos instead of typing out your note.  Tap the microphone icon at the bottom of the app and start speaking.  It will dictate your message and add a new note.


Give it  a try!

There are many note-taking options out there, but I have found Google Keep to be a simple and effective tool to keep myself organized.  Have you tried it out or use something else that you love?  Let everyone know in the comments!


Classroom Connections

One of the great things technology allows us to do is connect with other teachers, students, classrooms, and experts around the world.  It’s just a matter of making those connections.  This post provides a couple ideas on how to do that.

Google +

Many educators are using Google + to create and join professional communities.  Google + is one of the apps available to you through your school account.  If you need more information on getting started, the WFB Technology Support Site can help you out.  Below are a few communities that I have personally used to make connections with other classes.  I make a quick post about the class that’s interested, what we want to do, and when we are available, and responses come in pretty quickly!

Google Hangouts in Education

Connected Classroom Workshop

Mystery Hangout for Schools


There are many hashtags on Twitter used for different areas in education. Check out these articles for lists broken down by topic or subject area to find something that interests you.

The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags for Education

The 10 Twitter Hashtags All Teachers Should Follow

To connect for a mystery call try #MysterySkype  and  #MysteryHangout.

Do you have another great way to make connections around the world?  Share in the comments!

Capture your Screen with Snagit

I will preface this by saying that I love Snagit!  I have been using it to create quick how-to videos when someone has a question that is answered more easily with a visual walkthrough, as opposed to an email or conversation.  I also use it to create help documents because I can easily take a snap shot of what a menu looks like or what to click on.  This is much easier for people to follow than text alone.

So what is it?

Snagit for Google Chrome is an extension that allows you to take a screenshot or screencast from within your browser.  The screen capture tool allows you to take a snapshot of all or a region of your screen and annotate it with text, arrows, and shapes.  The screen recording tool allows you to record and narrate a video of the activity within your chrome browser.  These are great tools for showing “how-to” or having students explain their thinking.  Here’s a quick overview:

Is there something that you need to show students multiple times for them to understand it?  Create a screen recording that students can refer back to as many times as they need.  Post it to your class website, Google classroom, or share it with students so it is available right within their drive accounts.  Your screen captures and recordings save directly into your Google Drive into a folder called TechSmith, so they can be shared in the same way as any other file; with a few people or an entire class.

Want to learn more?  Here’s an overview:

Snagit for Chrome Extension Overview

And a quick tutorial video (the look of the app is updated slightly, but features are the same):

Bookmarking Digital Resources

Information comes to us from so many different sources – online newspapers, social media sites, emailed from colleagues – how do you keep it all organized?  Online bookmarking tools can help you stay organized.  As you find articles and videos, you can tag them to easily find them later.

Here are two to consider.  Pocket is a fairly simple save and search system, while Diigo provides many more options for searching and collaboration.


Pocket allows you to save anything from the web into your account and tag it to easily find content later. It integrates with google Chrome so you can create and sign in to your Pocket account with your Google account.  It also has a Chrome extension, so saving an article is super easy.  When you find an article you’d like to save or read later, you click on the pocket icon and add the tags you’d like.  That’s it.  There are iOS and Android apps as well, so you can bookmark and access your bookmarks from any of your devices.


Diigo takes bookmarking to the next level.  In addition to tagging articles that are saved, users can highlight and annotate the pages they bookmark.  Make notes for yourself directly on a webpage as a reminder of how you plan to use that information or thoughts that come to mind as you read.  Each piece of information can be easily shared and there are collaboration features to share repositories of information with a group.

Diigo has a Chrome extension which allows you to save, annotate, and share information right from the browser bar.  Toolbars exist for Safari and Firefox as well.

A good tip when tagging is to include a tag by media type.  Did you come across a great video you might use to show cell division?  Tag it with biology, cell division, and video.  When you want to find it, you can combine tags in your search to find exactly what you were looking for.

The video below was created by a science teacher who uses Diigo to organize her teaching resources.  She is using Safari, but the Chrome extension will have the same features.  This can also be a powerful research tool for students to help them organize information or collaborate with others.


Learn More from Video with

Information is available to us in all formats – text, photo, video, audio, interactive graphics, social media, and more.  Most of us are comfortable with consuming information in text form, taking notes, and organizing our thoughts. provides a simple platform to simplify the process of learning from video. is an app that connects with your Google Drive account.  It allows you to import a video from from a variety of sources (e.g. YouTube, Kahn Academy, Vimeo) and take notes that are time stamped as you watch the video.  The entire file – video with notes – is then saved into your Google Drive.

This brief video gives an overview of the process:

Give it a try or share this tool with your students!

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