4 Technology Resolutions for Staying Organized in 2020

This year I decided to make some new resolutions that will save me a lot of time by streamlining my workflow and staying organized.

Here are my 2020 resolutions for doing so using technology!

1) Ride the Wakelet Wave

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I come across dozens of resources each week that I’d like to save for future reference. But where do you save them? Do you add them to your Favorites? Do you bookmark them? Where do they go? And, how do you remember where you saved them?

Fortunately for us, Wakelet makes it super easy to save your favorite resources into categories. If you are unfamiliar with Wakelet, it works along the lines of Pinterest. You simply come across a Tweet, website or resource you’d like to curate, and then you “pin it” to a board using the app or a Chrome extension. You add add collaborators, share your collection, embed your collection, and also print the collection out as a PDF. And, it’s FREE!

I can’t even tell you how many amazing Tweets I have lost before utilizing the power of Wakelet. Now, using the Wakelet app on my phone and the extension in my Chrome Browser, I can add the Tweets to an organized collections that I may later review.

You can also make fun cover images for each collection like I did below. Click the image to check out an example of a curate list of my favorite Google Slides tips and tricks. (Here’s a Google Slides template for making a cover image.)

My Google Slides Wakelet Collection. Click the image to view.

2) Google Driving Me Crazy!

I’m not proud to admit it, but sometimes my Google Drive can be a complete mess. This year, I really want to do a better job by staying organized within my Drive from the get-go. Here are the steps I’m going to take.

  • Step 1: Delete and Narrow Down

The first step I’ll need to take is to search for all my Untitled files and delete them. I’ll do that by just typing “Untitled” into the search bar. Now, I’ll narrow down the Folder names that I will specifically need to stay organized. If you don’t know how to make a Folder it’s simple. Just go to Drive.Google.com, click on New and select Folder. Pro-Tip: Hold down Shift to select numerous files for deletion. I’ll move all my previously created files into one of these Folders.

  • Step 2: Pre-Writing Goals

This year, I’m going to add the title to my Doc and move it into a folder BEFORE I even start creating. After I type in Docs.new to create a new Doc (shortcut came out this year) I will then immediately title the Document. After you type in your title, you’ll notice a little star appears to the right allowing you to mark this document as important. You’ll also notice the little folder to the right of the star. Just click the Folder and move your new Document into the correct Folder.

  • Step 3: Shift Z to Add Documents to numerous Folders

Do you have a Doc that really should be in numerous Folders? DO NOT make copies! Instead, move the one Doc into numerous Folders using SHIFT+ Z! This way, whenever you update the Doc, it will be updated into all the Folders!

Shift Z allows you to add the Doc into numerous folders without making a bunch of unrelated copies.

3) Strawberry Shortcuts

I’ll be the first to admit I need to improve on all my Macbook trackpad shortcuts and keyboard shortcuts. Shortcuts not only save you time, but they are less interruptive to your workflow. We all know Control-Alt-Delete will reboot your computer, and Ctrl Z will undo your last move (don’t we?) ,but do you know about the hundreds of other shortcuts that are designed to save you time? My favorite shortcut is SHIFT-Z to move a file into multiple folders. It is such a time-saver!

I decided to save time in this blog, by using the Wakelet Chrome Extension to quickly curate a list of Shortcuts resources for you. I just clicked on the extension while viewing a post in Twitter, and Wakelet asked me to name my new collection.

Click here to view my Wakelet Shortcut Folder.

My new Wakelet Collection of Shortcuts

4) Gmail Tsunami

Luckily, I was able to attend a session by Allison Mollica at an AppsEvents Summit this Summer. She provided some amazing tips on how to stay organized and prevent a “Gmail Tsunami” in my inbox! You need to check out her presentation in the link. It’s fabulous!

The most useful tip was to FILTER and LABEL my messages so that they immediately go into a folder for me to reference at a later time. For example, if I know that I want to keep all my newsletters from my favorite podcaster to read at a later time, I can make a Label called “Favorite Podcaster Newsletters” and then change my Filter to make my incoming mail from that person go into that folder. The future emails from that person will be neatly archived for me to review when I have time.

Here’s how!

  • Step 1: When you open an email, create a Label by clicking on the TAG above. Then, either select the appropriate lable by checking the box, or click “Create New” at the bottom to make a new Label. I’ll make one named “Favorite Podcaster Newsletter”.
  • Now create the Filter by going into your Settings (the cogwheel in the right corner) and choosing Filters.
  • Now create a Filter by adding the email or subject you’d like to filter. (I added a fake email for this demonstration).
  • Now select the Label you just created.

All emails from that address will now go into this labeled folder. You can find this labeled folder on the left side of your screen. Just click on it and your future emails from that address will now be found here for your viewing pleasure!

Do you have any tech resolutions to stay organized? I’d love to hear about them!

Read and Write for Google Student Activity: Grades 3+

Many educators truly appreciate the benefits of using the Read and Write for Google Chrome Extension by TextHelp in classrooms! When students use the Read and Write extension they have access to a variety of tools that may help all learners with their reading and writing skills. Read and Write provides support for Google Docs, Google Slides, websites, PDFs, and ePub files.

Using this extension students can:

  • Have text read aloud
  • Use a translator
  • Share audio recordings of their reading
  • Simplify busy webpages
  • Collect highlights from websites into one Google Doc
  • Leave Voice Notes
  • Access a picture dictionary
  • Use a screen mask while reading
  • Access speech-to-text typing
  • So much more!

Once you have a subscription to this amazing tool you will obviously need to teach students how to use it. Here’s an activity I made using Google Slides which shows students how to use the Read and Write Extension through different activities. This activity is also good for teachers new to Read and Write to hone their skills too!

If you’d like to edit this template you may by visiting TinyUrl.com/ReadWriteActivity

Read and Write is FREE for teachers, but you do have to purchase a subscription for students to use the extension. They also provide many video resources on YouTube and have helpful information on their website.

How do you use Read and Write?

Sheets “Mad Lib” style activity

This Halloween, I wanted to create a fun activity for students to review the parts of speech and also get a great first impression of Google Sheets. To do this, I decided a “Mad Lib” style activity would be perfect!



The first thing I did was write a simple story in a Google Doc. I underlined the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs I thought would be fun to replace. I decided to keep the story simple as we all know that sometimes less is more.

Google Sheets

I created a new Sheet by typing in Sheets.new. Then, I merged the cells in the top row to add the title. I froze the first few rows to allow the headers to remain while students typed the answers.

Next, I added the parts of speech and a simple definition in column A. I then wrote the text “Answer #” in Column B to serve as a placeholder in the story. I hid the remaining columns and rows so students could focus on the activity.

If you don’t know how to hide a column or row it is quite simple. Right click on the name of the column or row, and now you can select “HIDE”. That is why you do not see any other cells in this activity.

Right-click and select hide to hide empty cells.

Adding the Formula

I wanted the words from Sheet 1 (titled MadLib) to appear in the story on Sheet 2 (titled Your Story). To do this, I merged cells, added titles, inserted clipart, and used the paint bucket to make the Sheet look festive. For the story, I merged numerous cells to create one large space for the formula. I also hid the remaining columns and cells.

I wrote a formula where the text would appear in quotes, and the answers would appear whenever I added the formula & Madlib!Cellnumber & . So for example, if I wanted the answer for the proper noun in cell B5 to appear in the story, I would write & Madlib!B5 &. This took a few practices and revisions with spacing and punctuation. (Notice how the words “Answer #” from Sheet 1 appear in the text as placeholders.) In the end the formula looked like this

Formula and Activity

Once satisfied, I tested the “Mad Lib” style activity out on my 9 year old son. After many laughs, I decided it was ready to share! I’m sure there will be many revisions to come, but that’s part of the fun!

Have you ever created your own Mad Libs? I’d love to see some examples.

Google Sheets Planbook

Looking for a new digital planbook?

School will be in session before we know it and many educators are scrambling to decide which tool to use this year while lesson planning. Over the past few years, I have tried creating lessons using Google Calendar, Docs and Slides templates. Each of these tools makes it super easy to create a template, edit, revise, share and archive lessons.

Last year I tried using Google Sheets and decided this is the tool that best fits my needs as:

  • Tabs may be duplicated each week
  • You may share an entire Sheet or Tab with admin or co-teachers
  • Images are now easily inserted
  • It’s easy to merge and wrap cells
  • Color coding is easy with the paint bucket

Here’s the link if you’d like to make a copy of the Template. http://bit.ly/SheetsPlanbook

Which tool do you prefer for your digital lesson planning?

5 Back to (Elementary) School Ideas with the G Suite for Education


The first week of school is around the corner and we are all scrambling for some fabulous ideas for kicking-off the school year and staying organized. Here are five ideas using G Suite for Education!

1: This is Me: Collaborative Slide Deck

Question: How could we have students introduce themselves to classmates and receive instant feedback?

It is so important for students and teachers to introduce themselves and get to know their classmates. Consider asking students (or staff) to create a slide about themselves and add it to a collaborative slide-deck. Then, students and staff may offer comments and feedback using the Commenting Tool. Donโ€™t forget to include your own slide!

Our district’s theme last year was “This is Me! Who are you?โ€ Inspired by music from the movie The Greatest Showman. Students put together the most amazing performance that was recorded and actually went viral. Consider including a video clip of the performance for inspiration using the Google Slides template below. It is so important that we build a community within our school. Sharing our goals, differences, and similarities is a great way to kickoff the school year! Template

2: Student Questionnaire

Question: How could we learn about our students interests and learning styles and share the information quickly with co-teachers?

Receiving input and feedback from students (and parents) is so important for understanding learning styles, study habits and other pertinent information. Google Forms makes it so easy to sort and share the information. Template for elementary school

3: Organize and Share your Classroom Library Inventory

Do you forget which books are in your large classroom library?

Question: How could we make our library searchable by titles, genres and reading levels?

My colleague, Lauren Fitzgerald asked if it could be possible to create a large database of all our reading books, including the genres and reading levels. This would make it incredibly easy to search for materials while lesson planning and sharing with staff. Together, we decided it was time to digitize the classroom library using Google Sheets and Awesome-Tables.com

Searchable Database of Classroom Library using Awesome-Tables.com

The first thing we needed to do with create a spreadsheet of our inventory. We then inserted code on a sheet labeled “Template below”. (If you’d like to learn more, my next post will explain how to make this all happen.)

Photo of Spreadsheet
Second Sheet has Code

4. Digital Morning Meeting Wall

Question: How could I reinvent my Morning Meeting wall to free up wall space?

Is your Morning Meeting wall taking up too much space? Consider going digital with Google Slides! Not only will you save wall space, you’ll also be able to archive past walls to review throughout the year.

Blog Post: Read post and get the template for editing!

5. Digital Hall Passes

Question: How could I log and sort student hall activity more efficiently?

Do you struggle monitoring student activity using a notebook sign-out system? Consider going digital using QR Codes!

By linking a Google Form to a QR code, students can scan the correct code whenever they need to leave the classroom. All data is then stored into a spreadsheet. The information can then be sorted and shared with parents, co-teachers or administrators.

Want to learn how? Here’s the blog post.

If you want to sort the student responses into separate sheets you can do that! Here’s a video tutorial explaining how:

Looking for more ideas?

Check out last year’s post “10 Smart and Simple Ways to Kickoff the School Year with the G Suite for EDU”

Sparking Innovation

All of these ideas started by asking a simple question: โ€œHow could we…?โ€ Special thanks to my colleagues for asking questions and imagining the possibilities.

New G Suite Feature: Add Audio to Your Slides

Google Slides just recently received the capability to add audio to your slides! Simply click on INSERT and select AUDIO to add a file from your Google Drive. Unfortunately, the ability to upload files from your computer is currently unavailable.

Why add audio?

  1. Add audio recordings of thinking and explanations.
  2. Add narrations to presentations or digital books.
  3. Add audio directions for younger students.
  4. Explaining diagrams, maps or information.
  5. Add music to enhance presentations.

How may I add audio?

There are hundreds of audio recording tools available, however I prefer to use the Chrome extensions Cloud Audio Recorder or Mic Note as they will save audio files directly into my Google Drive. This will make it simple to insert the audio into my Google Slides.

Step 1: Add the Chrome Extension Cloud Audio or Mic Note

Step 2: Open the app and record audio

Step 3: Save audio into Google Drive. Cloud audio will do that automatically, while Mic Note will need you to switch the Option to Google Drive.

Step 4: Open Slides and go to Insert- Audio. You’re done!

Video Tutorial

Ideas? I’d love to hear from you!

Tips and Tricks for Google Slides Picture Books

Why Google Slides?

Teachers and students are loving Google Slides for digital storytelling projects. For years, Google Slides was known for presentations but now educators have found dozens of innovative ways to use Google Slides in the classroom. Google Slides allows students to collaborate, add music and videos, receive feedback, insert images, work from a template, research information, and add animations and transitions.There are so many features that allow even the youngest students to create a pretty impressive picture book. Hopefully, this blog will provide you with many different ideas.

In this blog, we are going to look at a presentation created by my 8 year old son as an example.

1. View the Presentation

View the presentation by clicking here. You should hear audio and narration.

2. Adding Music

There is a fun “hack” to add music and narration to finished slideshows. First, go to INSERT-VIDEO and choose a video from YouTube or your Google Drive that has music. Then, resize the video to make it as small as possible and place it in the corner of the slide. Next, change the video format settings so that the video starts playing as soon as you present the slideshow. You do this by clicking on the video and selecting FORMAT in the toolbar. Now, you may checking off the box to autoplay. Your music will now start automatically once you click PRESENT.

I selected “Mute audio” for the video on Slide 7 so that you could watch the action taking place, but not necessarily hear all the distracting and unnecessary audio. You may also set the start and end time for video playback.

Set Format for Video Playback

3. Inserting narration

We used the Screencastify extension to record my son narrating each page. Screencastify is normally used to create a video of your screen, but we are simply using it to record the audio while narrating the digital picture book. Then, we will follow the steps noted above.

My son named each Screencastify video as Slide 1, Slide 2, and Slide 3 etc. so that we would easily be able to locate them while inserting them into the presentation. He then used the brand new Screencastify Add-on to insert the videos into each page. As mentioned above, we then resized the video and set the formatting to allow the video to play as soon as the slide appears.

Another option would be to use Screencastify to record the entire slideshow at once instead of page-by-page. Then, you could share your presentation as a video.

NEW Screencastify Add-on

4. Using a template with placeholders

We did not use a theme for this presentation. I did however create a template for my son to use by copying and pasting text boxes with image placeholders for editing. To edit each placeholder, we clicked on the shape and selected REPLACE IMAGE in the toolbar. This allowed my son to easily add images without having to resize and crop them. It also added some uniformity throughout the presentation. I created different placeholders using the cropping tool. Or, check out SlidesCarnival.com for some awesome FREE templates.

Click on shape- select REPLACE-IMAGE

5. Creating and Adding Clipart

Clipart was created using ABCYA’s Paint program. My son quickly sketched his clipart and then saved it as a PNG file. This made it simple to click and drag the png file into the digital storybook. Or, we could have selected INSERT-IMAGE-UPLOAD. Did you notice the spelling “Mikey Mouse”? ๐Ÿ™‚ ABCYA Paint is a great option for elementary school students.

In lieu of actual photographs, we could have created a picture book completely using student created clipart. Another option would be to add photographs of illustrations by selecting INSERT-IMAGE-CAMERA and taking a photograph. PhotosforClass.com also has many copyright-friendly images with citations included.

6. Auto-Advance Each Slide

When you publish a slideshow, an option appears that allows you to set the timer to auto-advance each slide. Due to the length of his narration, we set the timer to 5 seconds. You can also check off the box to restart the presentation when finished. Finally, this option makes it easy to copy the embed code and add the presentation to your blog or Google Site.

Advance slides using File-Publish to Web

Do you have any tricks for creating picture books with Google Slides?

Google Sheets Holiday “Shopping”

Teach an introductory lesson to Google Sheets by doing some holiday shopping!

Link to Templateย (Click TEMPLATE in the right corner to make a copy)

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.23.07 PM

What will students learn?

Students will learn how to enter data, enter basic formulas, use FUNCTIONS, and create a graph by following the directions in the second tab. They can even checkoff the items as they work using the checkboxes.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.25.38 PM.png

Where do students “shop”?

Students shop using this imaginary inventory. Shop for toys, household items, electronics, or even clothes and personal items!

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.38.40 PM

How can I differentiate for different learners?

This activity is geared towards students in Grades 3-5. You may differentiate the activity by using different templates linked using the Tabs at the bottom of the Sheet. For example, if you want a template with the formulas or headings already inserted, you could use the tab labeled “Differentiation with Formulas”.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.27.59 PM

What do students graph?

I added this easy activity for students to graph sales of popular toys. Then, use the checklist below to analyze the data and enter formulas!

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.39.53 PM.png

How may I assess learning?

Use this nifty exit ticket to assess learning! Add questions, tasks and activities as needed! You can pretty much turn Google Sheets into an activity pack! Or, add a rubric on a new tab!

(Example Exit Ticket Tab)

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.31.31 PM.png

Do your students do any “holiday shopping” using Google Sheets? I’d love to see your lesson!


Evaluating the Authenticity of Websites

The Objective

This month, students in grades 3-5 evaluated the authenticity of three different websites. Students often are unaware that anyone may create a website and frequently believe that anything they read online is valid. If we are going to teach students how to use search engines and conduct research, then we must also show them how to evaluate the search results.

The Lesson

Each class had roughly 15-20 minutes to explore the websites on their own. Fourth and fifth grade students had received the same lesson the year prior, only they were presented with a different website.

I introduced the following (fake) websites by stating that I would appreciate some student opinions before I started a project.

  • Third Graders: Dog Island Preface: My dog has been acting up. Should I send her on a vacation to Dog Island?
  • Fourth Graders: The Northwest Tree Octopus Preface: I found this amazing creature online and realized it was endangered. Should we start a school fundraiser?
  • Fifth Graders: All About Explorers Preface: We will be learning about different explorers this year.ย  Would this website be a good resource for me to recommend to for student research?

Assistive Technology: Read and Write for Google Chrome Extension

Since not all students are able to read at grade level, I reminded students to use the Read and Write for Google extension to help them read text aloud and define words. We used the highlight collector to highlight important information to support our opinions and then collected the highlights into a Google Doc. I find this extension to be extremely helpful with any and all reading activities.

The results were far from shocking.

Grade 3: Third graders decided I should NOT send my dog to Dog Island as it did not seem like a nice place. However, they did not question the website’s authenticity.

Grade 4: Fourth graders voted to save the Northwest Tree Octopus.  Only a couple students seemed confused while learning that this octopus lived in a tree. But, they still did not question the websites authenticity. Only one student raised their hand to share that they thought “something is wrong with the website”.

Grade 5: Roughly a quarter of the fifth graders picked up on the false information. I politely asked those students to hold their thoughts until after I asked the class to vote if we should use this website as a resource. The majority of the students still voted YES!

Action Taken

After I revealed the objective of this lesson, students laughed and pretended like they knew the websites were “fake” the whole time. But, in reality they absolutely did not. We then talked about how we can evaluate websites for authenticity and brainstormed many different ideas.

Students then used this Google Sheets checklist to go back and evaluate the authenticity of the website using the 5 W’s:

  • Who wrote the information?
  • Where did the author get their information?
  • What is the purpose of this website?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • Why is this site useful for your research?

Evaluating Website Google Sheet Template: Click USE TEMPLATE to modify.

Here is a template you may use with your students. I found it was very helpful!

Not only was this lesson extremely important; it was also extremely fun! Many students laughed as they exited the classroom stating, “You got us again, Mrs. Boucher! Not next year!” Hopefully, they are correct.

Lesson Slideshow

An amazing reader sent me a fabulous Google Slides lesson they created using this blog post. Check it out here! (Somehow, I cannot find the name of the teacher that created and sent me this Slideshow, so if it was you, please send me an email so I can give you credit!)

How do you teach students to evaluate website authenticity? Have any great resources you’d like to share?

Add Student Checklists to “HyperDrawings” Using Newly Integrated Google Keep

HyperDocs have been all the rage for the last couple years. My favorite G Suite tool for hyperDoc creation has always been Google Drawings. I create text boxes with opportunities for students to activate prior knowledge, engage, create, reflect, self-assess, and extend their learning within the margins or “gutter” outside of the canvas. However, there are so many steps in some of my hyperDocs that I have noticed students may accidentally skip part of their assignment. Alas, Google Keep came in to the rescue when it became fully integrated within Google Drawings!

Why Google Drawings for “HyperDocs”?

HyperDocs is the umbrella term for any tool within the G Suite Application that allows you to create inquiry-based, self-paced, differentiated student assignments. I really enjoy Google Drawings as it allows students to manipulate shapes and images in order to create a visual presentation. It also allows teachers to add video clips, directions in the margins or “gutter”, and Google Keep Notes. This really makes Google Keep a “one-stop-shop” for many of my activities.

Why Use Google Keep with HyperDrawings

Here’s an example of a hyperDrawing I created for students to learn about and create line-plots. Notice how Google Keep appears along-side the right margin. Immediately, I started integrating Google Keep as a simple way for students to track their progress as they complete their hyperDrawing. Students may check off each step or activity as it is completed. Once finished, students may then save their image as a JPG and upload their final product to the Google Keep Note. Finally, I can archive my feedback by creating hashtags for the assignments and student names.


Step 1: Create the checklist in Google Keep

Step 2: Label the student and assignment name

Step 3: Add the student as the collaborator

Step 4: The student opens Google Drawings and then goes to Tools-Google Keep

Step 5: The student checks off tasks and assignments as they are completed.

Step 6: The student saves their Google Drawing as a JPEG and then uploads the image to the Google Keep Note.

Step 7: The teacher provides feedback and archives the notes.

In Summary

There are so many innovative and amazing ways to use Google Keep. Sometimes you just need to use the tool for what it was originally created for…….a task list ๐Ÿ™‚

Do your students use a checklist while completing hyperDocs?