Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Whether your students have Chromebooks or use Chrome as the default browser, understanding that Chrome is an operating system as much as it is a web browser is important. Because Chrome is based on the open-source Chromium project, it allows developers to create extensions that “extend” what the browser can do.

Here are my 10 must have Chrome extensions to start 2016:

Diigo Web Collector

Social bookmarking has been around for years now. Yet I’m still surprised how few students know and use powerful bookmarking tools like Diigo. Even if you don’t teach the bookmarking part of what Diigo can do, there are so many other features available. Being able to highlight text on webpages, leave sticky notes on any web page for yourself or for a partner you are collaborating with changes the way we view the web. The video on the link above will help get you started in understanding just how powerful of an extension this is.

Sidenotes

A great note taking app that opens up a side panel and allows students to take notes about a webpage as they read it. The app backs up all the data to dropbox so if a student’s Chromebook crashes or if Chrome crashes on your computer, all your notes are saved and reconnect via dropbox. I have been using this for a few weeks now and love being able to add quotes from a webpage. I can then go back and use it for blog posts, trainings, and keynotes. Students might use it for papers or class discussions.

Note Anywhere

I love extensions that do one thing and do them well. This is a simple sticky note extension that allows a user to leave sticky notes for themselves on any webpage. When they come back to that webpage the sticky notes just appear. Another great research tool for students.

Goo.gl url shortener

URL shorteners are not just for teachers. Students should learn how to use them as well to create quick short URLs to share with their partners, the world, or their teacher. The Goo.gl shortner has two functions I really like. 1) It connects to your Google Account and tracks how many times your link is clicked on. Right away giving you data about the links in your writing. 2) It instantly creates a QR Code that you can download to easily view the webpage on a phone or tablet.

Google Tone

I love walking into classrooms where you hear tones flying back and forth between students collaborating on an assignment. If you haven’t used this yet…have a go. Both people need to have the extension installed. But once installed you can quickly and easily send a webpage to anyone with a device in hearing distance of your computer. Having a student create a google doc, share it with 3 others in the class and then just tone the link out saves clicks for everyone. A great extension that saves time in the classroom.

Speak It

As someone who listens to more webpages and books than actually reads them, this app is a must for every student, not just those with learning disabilities. A great app that is highly customizable and easy to use. You might need to talk to your IT Director to get some things unblocked at your school so that this works properly. But it is so worth it. In 2016 every student should show up every day with a computer and earbuds so extensions like this can be used when they are needed by students.

Stay Focused

I’m not a fan of blocking websites from students at school but rather teaching them how to use their time more wisely and how to use tools to help them focus on a task. Stay Focused allows a user to block a site for a time within your browser. If you know once you go to YouTube you’re there for an hour, block it for 15 or 20 minutes. Teaching students to focus on work for 20 minutes and then taking a 5 or 10 minute break is not only teaching them to stay focused but also teaches real productivity skills.

Panel View for Google Keep

For notes or ToDos that you might want to access on another device, Google Keep is the go to app. This extension is a shortcut to Google Keep. Allowing you to quickly add notes and ToDos via the web that instantly sync to your mobile device. Personally, I use this extension and Google Keep all the time for ToDo lists. My wife and I have one that we share for a grocery list. To be able to share a list with others again allows for collaboration in and out of the classroom. Installing Google Keep on your phone is where you really see this extension become useful.

Google Dictionary

An extensions that allows you to quickly look up the spelling or definition of any word. The extension has some great options to program hot keys or double click a word to open the extension. It works on any website and within Google Docs.

Calculator

Sure you can open a new tab, type in calculator and use the built in calculator in Google, or install this extension and have a calculator when you need it on the webpage you need it on with just one click. This extension saves so many clicks, simple and useful, the two things I look for in Chrome Extensions.

That’s my list of must have apps for students to start 2016. What would you add?

[box type=”info”] This blog post was originally written on the Eduro Learning blog on January 11, 2016[/box]

Now I have admitted before that I am a google fan boy. I love Google, I love their products, I love the way they take risks in development, I love the future they are trying to make a reality. So it should be no surprise that on Wednesday I prepared myself for the 3 hour Keynote that kicked off Google I/O Developers Conference this year. The conference has now ended and it is time to write my own reflection on the event and how I think this all relates to education.

Let’s start with the educational announcements:

Facts from the above video:

Google Apps

  • 25 Million educational users all around the world
  • In the US, 74 of the top 100 Universities use Google Apps and 7 of the 8 Ivy League Universities use Google Apps.

Love that they released these figures as just two weeks ago I had an IT Director tell me students still needed to know how to use Word as that was the standard. According to Google itself over 5 million businesses use Google Apps. What this tells me is platform no longer should be the focus. Wordprocessing the skill should be.

It’s Google’s Job to Fix It

Now I understand that this is Google trying to sell a product. But really isn’t that exactly what we hear educational institutions say? If only it was easier, faster and of course cheaper. What I love is Google is taking on those challenges and is continuing to try and knock down the barriers of technology in the classroom. At some point educational institutions will run out of reasons not to fully integrate technology. The only reason that will be left is fear….and fear is no way to run a school.

Google Play Store for Education

Two things here that make this a game changer:

1) The easy of use to volume purchase an app for a school/district or classroom.

2) No syncing of devices or management needed. The next time the device connects to wifi the new app, books or the video is instantly downloaded to the device. This is HUGE and those of you who are in charge of managing iPads in schools know just how huge this is. No need to sync, no need for one computer to manage all the iPads. Just buy and done. WOW!

Of coures this is a direct shot at the iPad. The question I have is, are they too late? No school that has invested in iPads is going to change to Android. Not for a long while anyway so I am left wondering just how much effect this will have. There are some schools that are going with Nexus 7 tablets and for them this is a big announcement for sure. But we’ll have to wait and see if this actually brings new schools to the Android platform.

I will say though that you put a ChromeBook with a Nexus 10 device and you are in a 2 to 1 situation for about $650 per student. That is very very tempting. If I am starting a new school tomorrow I would have to seriously way this against the MacBook Air and iPad combination that is about $1400. There is a huge savings cost there. That along might put Google in the game of education.


Google Search

If you haven’t seen the demonstration of what is coming to the Chrome Browser than you need to watch this. How does this change the classroom?

Honestly this to me was the biggest announcement of the three hour keynote. One of the big things I focus on in all my talks is how search is THE skill of our time. If there is one thing that everyone should know how to do today it is to know how to search. Not “find stuff” but really search the web for meaningful information. What they showed of course is pretty basic but this is just the beginning for sure. This is going to be a game changer.

If I were a 4th grade teacher today (which if I went back into the classroom is where I would go) I would start next school year by buying a ChromeBook setting it up in my classroom and would have it be always open to Chrome. Over the computer would be a sign that says “Ask Me Anything”. We would use the computer throughout the day to answer our questions, to see if we could stump it, to see what information we could “find” and what information did we need to “search” for. How would the classroom change if Google was your teaching partner? How would your teaching change? How does learning change?


google-io-2013Lastly…something that I’m still working through, is over the last two days I have listened to some of the other presentations and more than once developers have been talking about the “On Demand Generation“. That this generation (meaning all of us living right now) are more and more expecting things to happen when we want them to. We want our TV shows when we want to watch them, we want our music when we want to listen, we want our information when we want it, and we want directions now and based on the latest traffic information available. What about weather and my ability last week to know exactly when to quit playing golf for a 30 minute rain delay as the storm passed overhead. We are expecting it as a society and developers are focusing on it. This is what is coming; the ability to get anything we want “On Demand”.

I keep thinking about this and how does this change everything about education? An education system that was built over a hundred years ago on the premise of “Just in Case”? If we can literally learn anything “On Demand” then education has to change. It can not survive a world where there is no “Just in Case”. We need new skills, we need new knowledge. We need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly and we need to be comfortable always being a beginner.

What are your thoughts? What does school look like if we are preparing an “On Demand Generation” for their future?

macair
By Robert S. Donovan

Today my new MacBook Air arrived putting the final touch on my new digital life here in Seattle. It’s always fun to set up a new computer and new digital gadgets. I haven’t owned my own computer in four years using my school issued laptop as my sole machine. So it’s great to get my hands on this new 13 inch MacBook Air and start to customize it. I went back and looked at the software that I started with in 2008 when I got my first Mac computer. Crazy to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. 

So here’s my list of must have software…or is that browser ware?

First Four Downloads:

Chrome – Default Browser

Chrome Canary – Allows you to sign into muptiple accounts. I use this for all my other gmail accounts 

Firefox – Now my backup browser

Opera – Second Backup browser

App Downloads:

1Password: Love this to keep all my passwords safe and synced between all my devices using dropbox

Dropbox: Because I live in the cloud

Google Drive: See above

Pages: Needed to open a document

Chrome Browser Extensions:

TweetDeck: Social Network Client

Bitly URL Shortener: To share things on Twitter and Bookmark them direclty to Diigo

Google+ Page Share: Allows me to share things on my Google+ Profile and Pages

Diigo: My bookmarks

Scribefire: Blog Post Editor that works inside Chrome, can’t blog without it. 

Feedly: RSS Feed Newpaper

Prismatic: RSS Feed Newspaper – new and trying out

 

Crazy to think that Pages is the only application I’ve downloaded that isn’t Internet based. Guess you know where I’m spending my time. I know I’ll download more but I’ve been working now for 7 hours and this is all I’ve used.

 

Samsung Galaxy S III

I also purchased a new cell phone for coming back to the States. I bought my wife the HTC One X and I bought the Galaxy S III. I love both of these phones and my wife already knew how the HTC worked so liked sticking to that brand. We bought International unlocked versions (some habits are hard to break) and both phones work on the AT&T Network here in the States. But after talking with Tim Lauer I decided to try Straight Talk and there $45 Unlimited Talk, Text, Data plan…as I still hate contracts. So far I have been very happy with the service and love how Android works perfect with Google Voice.

 

Internet

I decided to go with CondoInternet which services our condo building it was either that or Comcast. But CondoInternet offered 100MBps download and upload for $60 per month and that was just to much speed to resist….especially coming from Bangkok where I paid for 20MBps and if I got 2MBps I was happy.

 

So…I’m getting all setup here in my new State-Side life and just thought I’d share how the tech side of things are coming. 

 

 

Brian Grenier wrote a blog post back in 2007 that I think I missed where he asks the question how do you write a blog post?

Miguel Guhlin just wrote a great post in response to Brian’s thoughts. In my COETAIL course yesterday we had a great discussion around how blogging was going for those in the class. All of them just 5 weeks into blogging. It was interesting to hear that many of them say blogging as publishing. That they had a lot of drafts waiting to be published but they wanted them to be “perfect” or “publishable”.

“The thought that other can read this, that a future employee can read this makes me want it to be publishable.”

It was great to listen to them talk among themselves and the different feelings they had about being a blogger. They asked me what I thought and along with Miguel talking about how he writes a blog post I thought I’d share my thoughts.

1. Blog topics are all around you
You are passionate about something whether teaching, technology, your kids or your car. Be passionate and writing is easy. If your not passionate about the post, or idea, you’ll know cause you just won’t do it.

This makes it hard when a teacher (like me) asks you to blog about something you might not be passionate about. That makes blogging an assignment….not real blogging. Real blogging is about you….about your thoughts, your feelings, your ideas…..the blogging you do for classroom, is just classwork.

2. Write down ideas or topics
At least two or three times a day I think to myself “that’s a blog topic” and for a while I would sit down to write a blog post and not be able to remember what it was that spurred that moments thought. So I’ve started writing blog topic ideas down. I use the stickies app on my MacBook and Google Tasks via a Chrome extension that lets me quickly jot down topics. I also have a notebook in my backpack for those times when a computer isn’t near to jot stuff down in. Everything from grocery lists, to blog topics. Lastly, I use my iPhone where I have a page of notes that are blog topics. No, you don’t have to have as many places as I do, but I know those are the spots I look for when I have time. Not all ideas make it to a full blog post, some get crossed out, others get folded into each other. It’s the brainstorm phase of writing….just like we teach kids. 🙂

3. Keeping web pages organized
http://welkerswikinomics.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/diigo.pngThis came up in class yesterday. How do you keep all those sites open, or organize that you want to talk about in a blog post? In Firefox I use an extension called Tabloc that allows me to ‘Lock’ a tab (still looking for a good one for Chrome is anyone has one!). So if my browser closes or I need to restart those tabs that are locked, stay safe and saved. I also have gotten better at tagging web pages in Diigo and using the highlight features as well. Social bookmarking takes time to understand and time to find out how tagging works and how to use it for you. I have a system that works for me and I’m going on 5 years without using bookmarks within my browser…..everything is in Diigo and Delicious (which are connected so when I save to Diigo it auto-saves it to Delicious….a perfect backup system!)

4. Find a blogging interface that works for you.
There are many different blogging interfaces that you can use to actually write your blog post in. I’m a huge fan, and honestly would have a hard time blogging without ScribeFire (Firefox Add-on). I’ve tired to blog just using WordPress and visually it just doesn’t do it for me. I know that many people use the Flock Web Browser and find the built in blogging application very good (I think it’s my second favorite). Scribefire is the only reason I still use Firefox. My day to day browsing has moved to Chrome and I find that I don’t blog as much because it means going someplace else to write. That’s what I love about ScribeFire, it’s just there, in your browser waiting for you to start writing.

Take time to try out a couple blogging applications and see if one fits you and your style. You gotta be comfortable with your flow of thought, writing, and idea process otherwise writing will become a chore not a pleasure.

5. Finding your Flow
In the end….I think it’s about finding your flow. Some people blog at the same time every day. I know Kim Cofino (cause we talk about this kind of stuff in the office) does most of her blogging on the weekend, because that’s what works for her. I found that I need it cool, I blog better, ideas flow when I’m in a cooler temperature. So I either blog in my home office with the A/C on or here on the couch with a fan blowing on me to keep me cool. I didn’t realize this was an issue for a long time here in Bangkok. It’s only been about 6 months that I realize I don’t write because I’m uncomfortable, hot, sticky, and not in a thinking mode.

Find your flow, find which time/day works for you, what place, which application. Take time to try things out. I’m constantly looking for another blogging application to replace ScribeFire and just haven’t found one that I like better…that enhances my flow of ideas and process of writing.

6. Write to your community ~ Know your audience
A blog website whether you like it or not is about branding. Your audience want’s to know what they are going to get when they go to your site. You know what to expect when you go to CNN, BBC, NYTimes, TechCrunch, Mashable, etc. Your blog needs to have a focus. That doesn’t mean you can’t go off topic once in awhile, but the majority of your blog posts should be to a specific audience. I focus broadly on education and specifically on educational technology. But I also talk about my love of baseball and travel as well……after all it is my site. 😉

So that’s it…find your flow, find your audience and blogging can be enjoyable.

Google Chrome LogoLast week Google Chrome updated itself on my MacBook and now allows Chrome extensions. I’ve almost completely moved over to Chrome as the speed of the browser just blows both Firefox and Safari away in my experience…and the way it handles gmail, gdocs, gwave, and the rest of G is just smooth. What’s been holding me back from making the full switch were the Firefox extensions that I have come to rely on. But now that I have most of them, I use Chrome 90% of the time.

Extensions slow a browser down as it’s extra code that needs to be loaded, extra things sometimes running in the background, so I’m committed to keeping my extensions to a minimum and keep the Chrome speed a priority. So, here’s my basic package:

FaceBook for Google Chrome: Extension which lets you read your Facebook news feed and wall. You can also post status updates by clicking on your profile picture.
(Simple and Quick, just how I like my updates, now only if it supported pages)

Google Apps Shortcuts: A simple extension that allows you to quickly create a new Emails, Calendar Events, Document or Spreadsheet with minimal clicks.
(Link seems to be gone at the moment but there are a ton to choose from find one that works for you.)

Google Tasks: A simple Google Task extension for Chrome.
(I’ve tried using Google Tasks off and on, but I think I finally found my extension that will put those to dos right in front of me!)

One Number: Check GMail, Google Reader, Google Voice, and Google Wave. Four sources, one number.
(Not sure I need this and Google Apps Shortcuts so I’m testing both. What I really need is one that will check and log me into different Google accounts like the Gmail Manager extensions does in Firefox.)

That’s it….I do also have the Bit.ly URL shortener on the toolbar. If you have a bit.ly account it’s an easy way to share web pages to Twitter as you are reading them. I also have the Diigolet link on my toolbar as well. Diigo now has a Chrome Extension, but I like the way this toolbar extension works and once again it takes a load off my browser and only loads when I need it.

http://www.knowtebook.com/uploaded/2009/01/scribefire.pngThe one extension that keeps me coming back to Firefox is the one I’m using to write this blog post. It’s called ScribeFire and I’m in love with it. It sits within Firefox and allows you to blog while searching for web pages, drag and dropping images (like the one to the left), quotes, and links from the web directly into your blog post. What I hate at the moment is I use Chrome and only open Firefox to blog. Now I’m going back and forth between tabs I have open on Chrome and Scribefire in Firefox. I need something like this (really I want Scribefire) in Chrome for my transition to be complete.

So there’s my list of extensions, what are your Google Chrome extension must haves?