My Gmail Inbox Causes Me Anxiety...You?

Create a "School Year" label then
add sub-labels under that year
I'm embarrassed every time someone gets a peek at my Gmail screen - But one day, a fellow teacher mentor (without judgement) suggested that I create labels for school years (2018-19).  Slowly, I've been deleting and moving - I'm proud to say that I'm down 300 emails!!!  It's taking a bit of time, but it's been well worth it.

Some categories I have created reflect my teacher leader roles (ELA, ELD, TIP), updates from EdTechTeam, and correspondence with parents.  What's nice is that the labels are for your eyes one knows if you made a label for non-sense emails, such as, "Reminders from Hell."

So, let's begin to tame the Gmail Inbox:
  1. On the left side in your menu, scroll to the bottom and click on "More" - Then scroll down again.  You will see "+ Create New Label" and click on it.
  2. A pop-up will appear where you will create your School Year 2018-19 label - Click on "Create"
  3. Once created you will find it in your menu on the left - The 3 dots will give you a new menu where you can edit your label
  4. Add a color to better manipulate your labels (I'm a visual person, plus I like colors)
  5. Start adding "Sub-Labels" or wait until you get an email that needs saving

If you need a visual here is a short clip on what it looks like to follow the steps above:

Think about starting this new school year by using the "Label" feature for Gmail 
and begin organizing your Gmail life.

I hope this helps you - like It has helped me relieve some anxiety...Share any thoughts below and suggestions for keeping the Gmail Inbox under control.

Perfectly Pear-ed

Every good EdTech teacher has a few secret weapons up their sleeves - go-to’s for student engagement, something that’ll hook their students...sometimes, it's just something "fun." I have my favorites - but there are some I pull out more than others. Pear Deck is one of those tools.

Pear Deck is an EdTech company offering a web-based application to K-12 schools and teachers. Pear Deck Slides gives teachers the "ability to engage and assess every student in every row, no matter what grade or subject." Pear Deck will help teachers create an interactive and community-focused classroom that builds confidence and comprehension.

Pear Deck Slides is very similar to a slide show, like PowerPoint or Google Slides. But instead of static (read: boring) informational sides, you can make interactive slides that let every student participate in your questions or prompts from their devices.

I didn't have (or didn't make many) opportunities last year to use it in my classroom - I felt my kiddos were all over the place academically (and rightfully so - I had FOUR grade levels in one room!) and I didn't put much time into creating presentations that my entire class could benefit from...because really, I had barely enough time to pull on a clean pair of pants in the mornings.

This year, in my new position, I have planning time each week to create lessons. I'm creating lessons that are engaging and relevant, thanks in part to Pear Deck.

The first time I used Pear Deck with some of my new students (a particular 5th grade class) - the kids literally "oohed" and "aahed." They couldn't believe the magic of Pear Deck. And it really is - without having to buy any additional programs or software, I am able to hold the pace of instruction (and my presentation) and have control of what my students see on their screens while increasing student participation rates.

So, how does it work? Students are given a link to join your presentation. They enter a class code (very similar to that of Google Classroom) and it connects them to your presentation. Once connected, the teacher is able to control the pacing of the presentation and what students see on their screens. If I move forward to the next slide on the presentation, so do their screens. Magic, see.

With the help of the add-on, students are able to interact with your presentation - answering questions and checking their comprehension throughout. The teacher has the ability to review answers to the questions by (anonymously) projecting the answers onto the board - a feature I love because it encourages everyone to participate and have a voice (the teacher still has access to see which students provided what responses through their dashboard, if needed - something I always point out to my students in case they'd dare to make inappropriate remarks or comments.)

Students can draw/write on slides like these with the help of Pear Deck.
"True or False" questions are just one type of question that teachers can use to gauge student comprehension.
I also love that it seamlessly integrates with Google Slides - I was a big Google Slides user before and this add-on just reaffirmed my love for both. Another thing I love - the team at Pear Deck is so responsive to their users' needs. If I have a question or concern, I can easily send them an email and I have a reply in my inbox in a couple of days. Big plus for a busy teacher.

Let's also talk data - because, really, who doesn't LOVE data (said no teacher ever!) Pear Deck sends me weekly reports on my engagement numbers. If I have a teacher or administrator doubting the effectiveness of this awesome program, all I have to do is share these numbers - noting the number of interactions students are having when I do this kind of presentation compared to that of a static lecture.

What I love most about Pear Deck is that it allows all of my kiddos to participate and be involved - not just a select, brave few. The anonymity of the sharing components allows even my shyest, introverts to participate without having to feel "outed." Everyone has a voice and all voices matter.

Pear Deck is a FREE add-on for Google Slides and can be found under the "Get Add-Ons" feature in Google Slides.

Twitter Chats - What's That?

When Angela first told me she'd participated in her first Twitter chat a year and a half ago, I did a double-take and said, "What the heck is a Twitter chat?" She patiently explained to me what it was, how it worked, and how to participate. Since first learning about Twitter chats, I've been an avid participator (and sometimes stalker) of them.

First, a Twitter chat is a public conversation via Twitter, centered around one central hashtag. Twitter chats are regular and reoccurring (sometimes every week, sometimes bi-monthly, sometimes once a month) and are usually themed to connect people with similar interests.

Twitter chats are moderated by one or more individuals. The moderators come up with a list of predetermined questions that are asked within the Twitter chat time frame; most chats are an hour long, others are 30 minutes. The moderators "ask" the questions and facilitate a conversation with other Twitter users around these questions. Twitter users will answer the question, using the specified hashtag so that other users can follow, respond, and retweet.

Angela's initial advice to me when starting Twitter chats - stalk and then stalk some more. I started by watching and following a few chats I was interested in. I "liked" a few tweets that resonated with me. It wasn't until a few chats later (and once I really understood the flow of a Twitter chat) that I felt brave enough to try it out.

And I didn't completely fail or embarrass myself! I connected with some great individuals, had a conversation about a topic that I was passionate about, and slowly began the groundwork to building my online PLN (personal learning network) - something I didn't even know existed prior to my Twitter usage.

Now - a word of caution. There are Twitter chats...and there are chats that remind me of why I hated middle school so much. Chats where the "regulars" are wondering who you are and why you're there...the kind where your responses get the cold-shoulder and make you want to crawl into a corner and shrivel up into a ball. I don't have any recommendations for these types of situations...but I will say that the chats I enjoy the most are the ones where I feel welcomed, my opinion is valued, and the other "chatters" genuinely want to know me.

Some of my favorite chats include the following:

  • #newteacherjourney (Sunday nights @ 8:30 CST/6:30 PST)
  • #caedchat (Sunday nights @ 8pm PST)
  • #flipclass (Monday nights @ 5pm PST)
  • #tosachat (Monday nights @ 8pm PST)
  • #cuechat (Tuesday nights @ 7pm PST)
  • #cuelachat (Every third Tuesday @ 8pm PST)
  • #ditchbook (Thursday nights @ 7pm PST)
My advice to anyone wanting to grow their PLN or just connect with people outside of their school bubble...join a Twitter chat. Stalk and participate. You'll be a better educator because of it. Oh...and stay tuned for #TechTribeEDU's chat - coming soon!

Student Log-Ins...To Memorize, or Not To Memorize?

In 3rd grade, students begin to show more independence which is extremely helpful when integrating technology in the classroom.  However, there is one roadblock (out of many) that I try to tackle at the start of the year: students and their login information.

One of my Ah-Ha moments was when there was a discussion at my site about students needing to "know" their log-in information without any help.  This made me think: "Why should I expect my students to memorize their login information?" (yes it is helpful) but I, as an adult, have PWs and account info written down, saved in Keep, etc...
This is me picking my battles, not only for myself as a teacher, but for my students.

Let me start with explaining that in our district, students are assigned emails starting in TK...but depending on the number of names a student has (2 last names) or if there are others with similar last names, emails can be daunting due to their length.  These emails are used to log into their Google account, hence their chrome books.
email example:
AND... you would think that using birthdays as passwords would be convenient BUT they are never composed the same way for each account a student might have: 
  • ConnectEd: ES20010223
  • baggies, magnet clips, student # labels
  • Accelerated Reader: 2/23/2001 (notice the month)

Because of the many login cards I received I decided to create login packets that students kept in baggies with their earbuds at their desks.  And I'll be honest, if I were still teaching 2nd grade I would be doing this same thing...actually for grades TK-3rd.  I feel that by 4th grade most of the students know their logins, but getting to this point is half the battle.

So, instead of focusing on the memorization part, I teach how to stay organized and how to keep information in a localized location.