Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Eversync and FVD Speed Dial

In order to get the speed dial on every machine that you use to access google chrome, you need to download an extension called eversync.  Here is my recommendation.

Set up the FVD SD on one machine and get it to look like what you want.  When you are satisfied, download the eversync extension and upload you speed dial to the server.  This is one of the sync options.  It will give you a warning, are you sure, box that asks if you want to overwrite the server data.  I went ahead and did it.  On you other machines, open the eversync extension and in the sync options, download the data from the server to your computer.  This will make sure that it looks the same.

For some reason, the background image that I had on my first computer did not transfer over to the second, regardless, I just added another image from google images and I am set.  Whether or not you do the same thing is up to you.  If you try it, let me know if you figured out how to transfer the background image.  I kind of like having different ones because it changes things up, but it would be nice to know.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

FVD Speed Dial

I had already written about Speed Dial in a previous post, but I was starting to get a little bored with the background being a standard color, I wanted a picture to display on the new tab.  So I checked out some themes and found one by FVD Speed Dial.  Once I found the theme, I thought I would just check out the FVD extension.  So I looked at it and decided to download it to the browser.

When you initially download it, the download stopped at 75% and then asks if you want to install something else.  I didn't install it, but the extension was already loaded onto my browser, so don't worry if you don't want the other app that it is asking you to get, guess that is just how they make money.

The FVD speed dial is great.  You can set the tiles to whatever URL you want, but there are some nice features that the other speed dial did not have.  Instead of loading an image of the webpage you are going to, you can add the URL of another image and use it instead.  I thought this was nice as using the logo of the website was prettier than simply a preview of the webpage.  They do have some suggestions for some sites that you might type in, but for others I simply did a google image search for the site and found logos and used them instead.

I was then able to add a background to the speed dial.  They have themes that you could use, but I went ahead and did another google image search for what I wanted to see in my new tab.  I copied the URL of the image and pasted it into the speed dial settings and now have a much nicer speed dial than the one I had before.  The setup took about 10 minutes, but I think I will like it much better and I chose an image that was soothing to me.  Here is the image of my new speed dial.  Hope this helps.

Chromebook Not Necessary

So I know I have been talking a lot about the chromebook apps, but that is not the whole story.  The things that you can do on a chromebook, you can actually do on any computer with the chrome browser.

When you open the chrome browser, you can click on the menu icon in the upper right hand corner of the browser and select settings from the option.  Once in the settings tab you can add accounts to the browser.  Add as many as you have and the browser can be customized to each of the accounts you have.

When you are logged into an account, go to the chrome webstore and add whatever apps you want to the browser and they will be available through the browser.  You can access them through the Apps button in the bookmarks toolbar.  Even if you do not have the chromebooks, you can still use the apps through a desktop or laptop computer.

Another great thing.  Say you open the chrome browser on one computer and add Apps under one account.  If you open the chrome browser on another computer and log in under the same account, you will see that the same apps are there.

Just a side note, if you have more than one google account and you set them up in your chrome browser, you can click on the icon you chose for your main account in the upper left of the screen and change to another account and set the browser for whatever you want in that account.

If you have questions, let me know.  Hope this was helpful.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Apps versus Extensions

I have mentioned apps and extensions in my previous posts, but I do not know if you know the difference.

Apps are basically links to webpages.  The app adds a tile to your menu on the chromebook and when you click on it, your web browser opens and takes you to that website.  If you download an app from the google webstore and don't like it, simply right-click the tile on your menu of apps and you can remove the app from chrome.

Extensions are things that are added to your browser.  When you add an extension, it adds something to your browser.  This is usually some type of functionality.  In previous posts I have talked about 2 extensions, Skiblz cam and speed dial.  These are things that allow me to do different things in my browser.  Speed dial allows me to change the look of my new tab to a set of tiles.  Skiblz cam allows me to record a screencast of what I am doing in the browser.  These are embedded in your browser.  To remove an extension, you must click on the chrome browser menu in the upper right hand corner of the browser,

then select settings from the list that appears.  When the settings tab opens, choose extensions from the menu on the left 
and delete the extension that you wish to delete. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Speed dial - Extension

So there are a couple of extensions that will do this, but speed dial is simple and it works.  It is an extension that allows you to add tiles to a new tab page.

Basically, when you open up the chrome browser to a new tab, there is a basic google search page.  I find this redundant as you can just type your search into the line at the top of the browser, that is where the website address is on this web page.  I would rather that the space in the new tab window had things that I could just click and take me to my favorite pages rather than type.  That is what speed dial does.  You add however many tiles you want and set them to web pages that you use and do not feel like typing in.  I have these set to websites that I have my students use throughout the year.  This way they do not have to find the websites or type in long web addresses, they just click on the tile and it takes them to the webpage so they can quickly get to work.  Currently mine looks like this...

Like I said, there are other extensions that allow you to do this, but this one is simple and easy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


CK-12 has been working on digital textbook publication for some time now.  Part of the California free digital textbook initiative.  They are good books and have content that is available online and free for students to use, but the questions and practice problems are still a little iffy.  These are not books that I would adopt for a classroom just yet, but they are a good source of information for students and they do have good information, but the practice and reinforcement is still lacking.

The website they have been creating has gotten a boost over the last few months and does seem to be making improvements.  The user interface is a little bit weird and does not mesh with the rest of chrome, but again, they are getting better.

One of the things that I would like to see are more thought provoking questions.  The questions they have for science are a mostly rote memorization questions.  As we are moving to common core testing, text, and questions I wonder if the questions will change at all.  I imagine they will, but that will require another overhaul of what they already have going as the questions are all teacher submitted and there would have to be a way for teachers to input these questions.

For what it is currently, this is a good website to have and a good resource for students to use with the chromebooks.

Scientific Calculator

So there are many calculators out there, but I teach chemistry and there are certain things I tell my students to look for when they are getting a calculator.

1. a 2 line display so you can see the order of operations and have an easier time manipulating it with parentheses and such.
2. log and ln buttons so they can do problems that have to do with pH later in the year.
3. sin, cos, and tan so they can use the calculator for most of the math classes they will take.
4. a scientific notation button.  This looks like a x10^x, exp, or EE.  These are the most common ways that this appears.  This way I can have students easily put in numbers like 6.02 x 10^23 and use them in a calculation.

The scientific calculator from fulfills all of my requirements.

When you open up the calculator if you click on the "Sidebar" option, the display is nice and simple.  you can then type in what you want and click on the necessary buttons.

If you have other requirements or other calculators that you have used that work, please let me know.

Skblz cam - extension

The skiblz cam allows you to create screencasts of browser activity.  Since the entire chromebook is in the browser, that can be pretty much anything.

I added this extension to allow me to create videos showing them certain things that I might have them do online.  I might create a video where I show them how to access a website or where I give them a tutorial on how to use some of the apps that we will be using in class.  I think in the future, I might have them create videos of things that they are doing online or to create tutorials that they could share with me or their friends about how to accomplish a specific task.  I have not played with it that much.  That being said, I am using it at the moment to record my typing this blog post and will be posting it below to show what it can do.  All I do is click on the extension button at the top of my browser.  It looks like a small video camera and the video camera begins blinking with a red dot.  when I am done, I click it again and it stops recording and produces a video...

Typing as I wait for the video to load, I can tell you that I have had several messages that the extension has crashed and I just click the reload button on the browser.  I think this is why I have not used it too much.  The video I created was about 2 minutes in length, but the extension likes to take its time making the video... Just a wheel showing me that it is thinking.  Maybe I will post the video in another post.

I think the concept is a great idea and seems to be simple enough, however, their seems to be some bugs that need to get worked out with this.  I will get back to you on that one.

Coding and publishing websites

I have found that codecademy and editey are great apps for teaching the coding process and then using the coded pages to create websites.

Codecademy - this is the site that walks you through the coding of several different computer languages.  You learn to code while creating a product that you can see.  Students can become familiar with the languages used to create websites.

Editey -  is an app that lets you create google documents that are html.  Not only can you design simple webpages, but you can then have google host the websites for free.  I have played around with the idea of having students create webpages that are shared with the other teachers in the school.  A place where they can showcase the work they are doing in their classes and post things like resumes and documents that could eventually be shared with college admissions.

Students could also embed videos they have made with movenote onto the webpages to catalog the presentations they have done in their classes.  I know there are a lot more applications for both of these, but am hesitant as there are also security and publication issues with students putting material online for the world to see.

Daum Equation Editor

I have always stayed away from equation editors as they have had some quirky issues and lag that just made them frustrating.  I really have started to like this editor as it is simple with an easy to use interface.  Also, there are some buttons at the bottom of the page that make it very appealing.

As you are creating your equations, you can click on the save as image and the editor will take a screenshot of what you have typed thus far and save it.  I find that this helps when working out problems as I can show students the process that I go through to solve problems and not only the final worked out solution.

I have created videos with movenote where I take these screenshots and use them as slides for the video that I am making.  This way I can talk through each step of solving the problem and click to the next step when I want to.  An example of this can be seen if you Click Here.

These presentations of problems take little to no time.  I have also found that my special education students have an easier time with math problems in using this as their organization of problem solving is forced to improve as the flow of the problem is vertical and the progression of one step to the next is easy to follow.


The idea of having my students create presentations does spark my interest, but presentations take up a lot of time and are usually good for a one time presentation.  I wanted an app where students could make small presentations for little things that we go over in class.  These could be anything from tutorials about how the students solved a problem to presentations where students outline how a theory applies to a real world application.  Ideally, I wanted students to be able to make videos that they could post to some place other than youtube as that website is not accessible through the school internet.

I came across movenote where students could create videos of a slideshow.  The slideshow could be a presentation or any google doc that has been changed into a pdf, jpeg, or png file.  These documents can be loaded into the movenote interface and the students can talk through them.  While they are talking through the files, they can highlight words or pictures in the files.  Movenote also can access the webcam of the chromebooks and record the person as they are talking through the presentation to make it more personal.

I have played with this a little and have made some tutorials for some homework problems that I gave students yesterday.  If you would like to see it, Click Here.  In the video I also use another app that I will be talking about in another post called Daum Equation Editor.

I can think of several uses for this app.  There is the obvious application of having students record presentations and submit them for credit.  With this also comes the possibility of sharing the videos with other members of the class to peer review.  Students could also create tutorials of how to solve certain problem types.  Students could record Pecha Kucha presentations to work on presentation skills.  I am sure there are other applications that I have not listed.  If you think of any, please share.

Getting Started

I am currently piloting chromebooks in my science class and am starting this blog to share the ideas that I have come across and also looking for ideas to implement in my class.

A little about me.  I have been teaching for 10 years and currently am finishing up my doctorate on the teacher designs of technology activities in the classroom.  I have had some fun looking into some of the resources on the chrome webstore and have found some apps that I think will find there way into my classroom starting in February.  That is when I will have a class set of chromebooks, one for each of my students.  I will be spending some time reviewing some of the apps that I have found and possibly sharing how I think I might use them in class.  If you have ideas, please let me know as I would like to incorporate things that not only have a high level of thought and rigor, but that also help my large population of english language learners.