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]

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?