Take a Tech Break with Chrome Extensions

coffee cup with the word pause

We are all spending increasing amounts of time working on computers, tablets, or interacting with other technology, including phones.  It’s easy to lose track of screen time resulting in endless sitting and sedentary time!  We are all victims of the internet rabbit hole, the flood of email, website tangents and other tech-tasks that consume our minutes and hours.  This not only impacts adults, but can be troublesome for our students in our tech-embedded classrooms!  There are many apps for iPads, tablets and phones, as well as the Chrome Browser that can prompt breaks and movement.  Check out a few options for the Chrome Browser.  Simply add these extensions through the Chrome Webstore, customize the settings, and get your eyes off the screen!

 

Google Voice Typing Now in Google Slides

Google Slides Tools Menu

Many of us have been using Google Voice Typing with Google Docs.  It is now available in Google Slides also!  Find it in the same location: under the Tools tab.  It’s important to note that the Voice Typing will  only input text into the Speaker Notes section, however a simple “copy + paste” will allow the text to be transferred to the slide.  This can be a terrific solution for some students who struggle with writing, especially keyboarding and handwriting.

Find more information and “how to’s” at this link for Google Voice Typing Support.

Google Docs Accessibility

grackle docs

Google Docs has become an essential tool in our classrooms, utilized by educators and students for everything from instruction and collaboration through assignment completion and more.  This makes it increasingly important to evaluate the accessibility of the documents being created and shared.

How can you ensure that your documents are accessible to everyone?  And what features should we be teaching our students to incorporate?  Here are the key areas to consider:

  • Use of Headings and Lists or Bullets when formatting the page content
  • Adding Alt Text to images, tables, charts or graphs
  • Structuring hyperlinks
  • Utilizing contrasting text and page background

How do you know if your document meets accessibility standards?  Grackle Docs is a Google Docs Add On that will check your document for accessibility errors, and help you repair them.  It’s a free and intuitive tool that will help you reach all users.  Download it from the Chrome Web Store and give it a try!

 

Magic Scroll Chrome Extension

magic-scroll graphicMagic Scroll Web Reader is an extension for the Chrome browser, free in the Chrome Web Store.  Once downloaded, simply open a web page with text, click on the Magic Scroll icon in the upper right portion of the browser bar.  A clean view of the text is displayed as consecutive pages in a book.  Click the play arrow, lower right to begin scrolling vertically through lines of text.  Adjust the speed with the + and – buttons, also lower right.  Use the slider tool, upper left, to adjust settings such as font size and color scheme.

Magic Scroll can assist with visual focus while reading text on web pages, with options to adjust features to meet the needs of various users.  The user can even pause scrolling and utilize a text to speech extension, such as SpeakIT! to hear the text read aloud.

 

Google Slides – Features You Need to be Using!

google slides graphic

Google Slides – If you haven’t been using it, then you should be!  It is a terrific tool for both Teacher Presentation, Student Creation and Instructional Materials.  So much easier and more collaborative than PowerPoint!  And, there are some great newer features you might not have used:

Q&A featureIf using for class lectures or instruction – activate this feature to allow students to ask questions, answer questions, vote on topics, make comments, etc. Simply go to the small ‘down arrow’ next to PRESENT in the upper right corner of the slide deck, and activate the Q&A feature.  A short URL will automatically be created and added to the top of each slide.  Student submissions can be displayed (or not), and they are saved in a history to be viewed later.

Read text out loud – If you are using the  Read&Write for Google Chrome extension, you know that it reads the content of Google Docs (and websites) out loud.  Did you know that it now reads the text on Google Slides?  This is a great support for students using teacher-created presentations, or other slide presentations as instructional material, Google Slide ebooks, etc. Try it here with these Google Slide examples:

I Can Use My Words” (You must have the extension downloaded from the Chrome Web Store)

Because of Winn Dixie (story review student assignment)

United States Government Texbook Chapter

Sharing and Collaboration: And of course – Google Slides are automatically ‘shareable’ due their location ‘in the cloud’.  Just set the sharing settings so that others can view or comment.  Post on your class website for 24 hour access to materials, and terrific student/family collaboration!

Closed Captioning Improves Literacy

Closed_captioning_symbol.svgCaptioning, or Closed Captioning, has a proven track record of improving literacy for learners of all ages.

In one randomized study, students engaged daily in content with “Same Language Subtitling” scored significantly higher than students in the comparison condition on the reading comprehension achievement post tests.  Data from PlanetRead has shown that even 30 minutes of weekly exposure to SLS or captioning over 3-5 years, enables adults and children with basic familiarity of the alphabet to become functionally literate.  The science underlying SLS and captioning is strong. Eye-tracking research has established that SLS causes an automatic and inescapable read-along response. Early-readers when exposed to SLS or captions, try to read along, and in the process, find their reading skills improving.

This free and simple tool is available to parents, educators, and anyone trying to help someone improve their reading skills! Closed Captioning is available on most devices including TV, Digital Cable, Satellite, DVD’s and many internet video channels such as YouTube.  Simply turn on this feature and captions become immediately available.  In addition, many educational video sites and organizations with digital content provide Closed Captions on their content.

Turn on captioning to turn on reading!  To find everything from how to turn on captioning, to finding sites with captioned content, visit Captions for Literacy.  (@Caps4Lit)

 

Chrome Apps & Extensions for Diverse Learners with Symbaloo

Chrome SymbalooSymbaloo and Symbaloo.edu – a wonderful platform to store and share resources.  Symbaloo allows teachers to share valuable resources with their students and with each other. The best part is, Symbaloo is easy to use. You can add any link you find on the web to a customized tile, and organize your tiles in different webmixes (categories). You can search for tiles in the Symbaloo’s tile database, and you can search for content curated by other educators in Symbaloo’s gallery.  Check out this Symbaloo with Chrome Apps and Extensions for Diverse Learners!

Newsela – News Stories Accessible to All Reading Levels

NewsELA graphicNewsela is a website and Google Chrome app that publishes daily news articles at 5 reading levels, 3rd-12 grade.  Use the non-fiction content, focused on current events/news with your students, adjusting the text by Lexile Level.  Articles can be assigned to individual students, filtered by grade level or reading standard, and quizzes are provided related to some of the articles.

One additional tip for use of Newsela – copy and paste the content (at the targeted reading level) to a Google Doc, and share with students, or with “Anyone who has the link”,  as “Comment Only”.

  • Provide your own comments within the article, as reading prompts or questions.  Students can respond with comments on the same Doc, or in a separate Doc.

Students can initiate highlights and comments to prompt class conversation and deeper thinking.

Instagrok – Interactive Search Engine

instagrokInstragrok is an interactive search engine, ideally suited for diverse learners.  Its visual interface along with the ability to scale the difficulty level make it a stand out websiteChrome App or iPad App for student investigation, research and exploration of concepts and topics.  Add in the ability to target key facts, view associated videos and images, take notes and access auto-generated quizzes while tracking student progress – and this is a terrific differentiated tool!