Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Suite Talk - Episode 2

Episode 2 of The Suite Talk is completed!  In this episode, Brian started off sharing information about the new version of Google Earth and all of its new features.  I shared information about Google's FREE technology curriculum for grades 7-12, which is available at the CS-First website,

Additionally, the app of the show was Google Slides. I showcased the new feature of uploading videos from Google Drive and having the autoplay, mute, and start and end times available.  Brian showcased templates with backgrounds.

Website, YouTube, and Feedback

You can visit The Suite Talk, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for notifications.  If you have any questions or feedback, please fill out the Google form.

Episode Link and Video

Here is the link to the episode and the video is shown below.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A FREE Technology Curriculum offered by Google

Google is now offering a FREE technology curriculum for grades 7-12.  These courses offer students a project based learning environment with meaningful lessons, instructional videos, and hands-on activities that teach students how to use G Suite applications.  It will also teach them digital literacy skills too.  

The curriculum is offered through the CS First website.  All teachers and students must visit the website to interact with the curriculum.  

Additionally, it will empower students to take control of their own learning, encourage them to solve problems in new ways, teach them to behave ethnically online, connect students to the world, and prepare them for future careers.   

For Students

The curriculum is self paced and it offers instructional videos, and activities for students to complete. Students will use G Suite applications, and programming to complete the tasks. Students will need to join a class similar to Google Classroom.

Once students join a class, they will be asked to complete a survey on their knowledge of Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and app scripts. All of the activities revolve around these apps.

For Teachers

Teachers must create a class, similar to Google Classroom, and identify a school location.  Once this is created, a code will be generated and this code must be shared with students.  Then, students will join the class and start to watch the videos and complete the activities.

Teachers will have lesson plans, a a student tracker, and a teacher guide available once a class is created.  Here is a list of sample units that can be used with students.  


For example, in Unit 1: If-Then Adventure Stories, students learn how to use Google Slides.  By hyperlinking slides within the presentation, students learn about if-then scenarios.  If this scenario occurs, then that result happens. Additionally, they will learn how to add animation to text and insert slide transitions and much more!

Another example, students will be able to use Androidify to create a customized Android avatar.  This activity was part of an extension in a unit that allowed them to experiment with the website.  Once completed, students can download their avatar, share it to social, use it as their profile picture, or email it to their teacher.  Below is an example of my Android avatar.  


In Conclusion

I highly recommend that any educator who is using G Suite for Education at their organization, try this free technology curriculum from Google.  The lessons and activities are meaningful and will allow students to showcase their work using G Suite for Education through project based learning.  Give it a try and let me know your feedback.


Friday, April 21, 2017

NEW Feature: Custom Colors in Google Sites

Google has just released a new feature for Google Sites.  Now, you have the ability to use custom colors in the theme of your site.  You can select a color from the color pallet or you can enter the hex code of the color.  The website theme will change to the specified color you selected.

Just a side note, if you would like to pick a color using the hex code, I would recommend to download the FREE Chrome extension, ColorZilla from the Chrome Web store.  This Chrome extension will allow you to pick a color from any webpage, then it will copy the hex code to the clipboard, which will allow you to paste it into the hex code area on the Google Site.

Here is a screen cast to demonstrate this new feature in Google Sites.

Here is the official blog post from Google.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Review of FotoJet

I was recently asked to review FotoJet which is an online application that will allow you to create collages, graphic designs, and enhance photos with a photo editor.  It provides many amazing projects such as photo cards, social media graphics, posters, etc. and it allows you to edit your images easily.  It is a FREE tool that you can use in your classrooms with students, for branding, ads, posts for business, and for personal usages.    

When you login, you will have three options,  'Create a Design',  'Make a Collage', or 'Edit a Photo'. Each option serves a different purpose.


The Create a Design section will allow you to select from many templates. These templates will allow you to create ads, headers, banners, flyers, posters, cards and much more.  Many of them can be used for social media and branding.  You can even create a custom design using your own page dimensions.  There are many templates to choose from and you can even upload your own photos to the designer.  Additionally, you have the option to add word art, background, and clip art.  Here is a sample design that I created using a template and adding my finishing touches.  

The Collage option will allow you to create a photo collage with pictures from your device, or from their library.  There are many templates to choose from. One feature I like was the Text option because there was a lot of selection and they reminded me of word art.  Additionally, the collage feature will allow you to add clip art, backgrounds, and select from different layouts.   The example below displays a blue background, a 5 picture layout for pictures, and text.  I found this feature to be very simple to use.

The Photo Editor option will allow you to upload images from your device or find them on Facebook.  There are many options available that you can choose from to enhance your image.  A screen shot of your options is shown below.  

A nice option in the photo editor was that I was able to compare the original picture to the enhanced picture.  It was very easy to add effects, frames, and adjustments to the image.  Below is an example of what I created.  

The image displays a border with enhancements, a vignette enhancement, and text boxes.  I was also able to specify certain colors of the text using the hex # of the color from the color wheel.  The only thing I could not do was upload an additional picture and layer it on my original.  

Classroom Implementation

You can use FotoJet with your students easily by having them access the website and creating a free account.  Be sure you check with your organization policies and COPPA for the age restrictions of FotoJet

Some ideas for education:
  • allow students to create an advertisement to market a product 
  • allow students to create a collage of similar objects
  • allow students to create a campaign for antibullying or another concept
  • allow students to create banners and headers for an assignment
  • classroom collage of students working collaborately on an assignment


In conclusion, I would highly recommend FotoJet.  I felt the interface was user friendly, quick and easy to navigate, and there were many features available in each project type option. I was able to create my projects without having any prior knowledge of FotoJet very quickly.

Additionally, I like the option of having the social media headers, banners, ads, and posts sizes available for Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus. I did not have to research the sizes of these objects because they were available in the template gallery.  

Furthermore, I was able to save my projects to my local device, share them to social, or print them. 

Finally, I felt the application interface was not overwhelming as compared to others, and I felt I was able to create my project quickly, especially without having any prior knowledge of it.  I know I will be using this application to create projects and enhance my objects.   Give it a try! You will be happy that you did! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

How to Give Feedback using Google Keep

Did you try to use Google Keep to provide feedback to your students?  If not, I recommend that you try it.  Google Keep is a Chrome App that can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store and installed in your Google profile.  It is an app that will allow you to create reminders, lists, collaborate with others, attach important files, links, or images, and color code your notes.  It is similar concept to having post-it notes.

Recently, Google Keep has been integrated as a new feature in Google Docs. This option is available through the Tools menu in a Google document.  Simply click on 'Tools', then click on 'Keep Notepad'.

This is a great feature because it will allow you to create a library of comments or stickers that you can reference when reviewing student documents.  When creating your library of comments or stickers, be sure that you have one comment per note.  It will also be helpful if you color code the note by a category.  For example, all the orange notes refer to a grammar suggestion.

The Process

  1. First, create your library of commonly used comments in Google Keep.  
  2. Next, open up a student document to review, then open up Keep Notepad. The Google Keep notes will appear in the right margin.  
  3. Simply, highlight the text you want to leave feedback in the document.
  4. Click on 'Comment' to open the commenting tool.
  5. Find the comment in the Keep Notepad that you want to insert in the student document and highlight it.  
  6. Copy the comment, by hitting CTRL + C on the keyboard.
  7. In the commenting dialog box that is already open, paste the comment, by hitting CTRL + V on the keyboard.
That's it, you are all done!  I found this process to be simply and quick.  The most time consuming part is building your library in Google Keep.  Once this is done, you can always go back and add or delete comments as needed.  The library will remain in effect until you no longer want to use it.

You can also do this with stickers using the Bitmoji extension.  This extension can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.

Below are two screen casts that I created to complete this process.  The first screen cast demonstrates how to use stickers and Google Keep, and the second screen cast demonstrates how to use comments and Google Keep.

I hope you find this method helpful.  Please leave comments or feedback on your experiences with these tools.  

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for more screen casts and videos. Thanks!

Sticker Integration using Google Keep and Google Docs

Instant Feedback in Google Docs using Google Keep

Thursday, April 6, 2017

There's a New Show in Town!

There's a new talk show in town called The Suite Talk hosted by me and Brian Costello.   Our mission for this show is to provide our audience with information about G Suite for Education updates, and how they can be integrated into the classroom.  We will also highlight an app of the show and provide tips and tricks on using it.

We would like our show to be casual, informal, and under 30 minutes.  We want to provide our audience with a simple conversation about GSFE updates, and technology integration into the classroom.  At times, we will demonstrate, by screen sharing, how these updates and ideas can be implemented into the classroom.

Last night, Wednesday, 4/5/2017, was our first show.  After postponing it a week because of technical difficulties, we were able to go ahead and broadcast live.  Although there were a few audio issues in the beginning of the show, we overcame them and continued to provide our audience with our agenda.  

During our first show we spoke about Team Drive in Google Drive, using personal accounts in Google Classroom, and the app of the show, Google Forms.  For more information on the content we discussed,  click here to view the show, and click here to view the notes. 

You can also visit The Suite Talk website and subscribe to The Suite Talk YouTube channel

Our next show is to be decided.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keep informed on Computer Science EDU

I recently presented at our in house Edcamp on the importance of Computer Science Education 4 all ages. Currently, in New Jersey, high schools are not required to offer Computer Science education.  It is not even a high school graduation requirement.  However, there are many K-12 teachers who feel that students need to be knowledgeable of this concept so that they can have an advantage when pursuing college or careers.  

Some background

My son graduated from high school in 2016, without having a Computer Science class.  It was not even offered at his high school. Now that he is in college, he is at a disadvantage because he does not have any prior knowledge of it.  He really does not understand it at all. Although, he is a proficient user of technology applications, this does not qualify him to be proficient in Computer Science.  As a result, this became a passion of mine and it was time to get involved!


Currently, In New Jersey, high schools do not have to offer Computer Science education.  It is not even a high school graduation requirement.  However, starting in 2018/2019, it must be offered in high school. Here is the Bill A2873. Also, the freshman class of 2016/2017, (graduating in 2022/2023), will be required to take a Computer Science course to graduate high school.  This is a huge accomplishment!

More good news for NJ. A Computer Science endorsement passed the NJ Senate allowing teachers to be certified to teach Computer Science, grades 7-12. It still has to pass the House, and onto the governor's desk, but this is a step in the right direction.

My Session

In my session, we started out with an activity on improv thinking. This exercise allowed the attendees to look at a random picture, and think quickly about a problem, solution and action.  It allowed the attendees to think outside the box, stimulate the brain in a different way, and to get out of their comfort zone.

Next, I spoke about the problem(s) of not teaching Computer Science to students. I went over the essential questions, who, what, when, where, and why the importance of Computer Science.

Additionally, I stressed the importance of failing.  Failing is an important part of the learning process.  This is where students use their critical thinking, problem solving, communication, creativity, and collaboration skills to tackle the errors, or problems with the program.  

Many educators may feel they do not have the right skill set to teach coding. That is a mindset that allows you to have this perception.   There are many resources available that will provide the professional development needed to teach Computer Science.  Plus, no one said you had to be an expert on the subject.

In my opinion, in order to serve our students the best we can, we need to evolve with education and keep current with the educational trends.  Currently, teaching Computer Science is the subject to know and learn. It is not a trend and it certainly is not going anywhere!  Our society thrives on technology and it is part of everyone's daily lives.  So why not embrace it?  The possibilities are endless!  Just teach whatever you are comfortable with. For example, you can teach block coding using Scratch, Ozobot, or a coding language such as HTML, JavaScript or Python.  

Professional Development and Resources

The College of New Jersey and have a partnership and will offer professional development on Computer Science through their website. Additionally, there are many other resources available to learn coding, such as Khan Academy, Code Academy and many more.  Just Google it!

In conclusion, I am attaching my presentation to this blog post so that you can reference more of my information, resources and examples.  Please give it a chance.  You will be amazed with your students and their reaction to coding.  If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.  Thank you!