Saturday, July 7, 2018

PD in Your Ears: The BeerEDU Podcast

Just a few of the podcasts that I listen to on
a regular basis, with more added all the time!
If you are an educator, you are always looking for ways to improve your craft.  While formal professional development, such as taking graduate courses or attending paid workshops and conferences, are great, they are not always practical or affordable.  So what does one do to improve?  You find other informal professional development, such as blog posts (like this one, or at least I hope you learn something from this blog), social media, and podcasts.  While I learn a great deal from all of these plus more, I especially like listening to podcasts, as they are something that I can learn from without being actively engaged; I can listen while in my car, while cleaning the house, and sometimes I even listen while on the treadmill or elliptical at the gym.  

Most of my subscriptions are educational in nature.  Many of the educational shows are hosted by people that I have come to know personally and I consider friends, such as TOSAs Talking Tech with Tom Covington and Michael Jephcott, Check This Out with Brian Briggs and Ryan O'Donnell, Edtech Confessions with Ann Kozma, Cynthia Nixon and Kelly Martin, and Teaching Tales with Brent Coley.  Then there is the STEM Teacher Podcast with my friend of nearly 20 years, John VanDusen. However, some of my subscriptions are purely for my own personal enjoyment and interests, such as The Hockey News, the Detroit Tigers, Taggart & Torrens (a comedy/Canadian pop culture podcast hosted by Jeremy Taggart, the former drummer of Our Lady Peace, and Jonathan Torrens, acclaimed actor well known in Canada for shows like Jonovision, Street Cents and Trailer Park Boys), and Drinking Socially (a podcast about the history of beer styles, trends in the beer industry, and where to find up and coming beers).  To listen to these shows, I use an app called Pocket Casts, a podcast catcher that not only allows you to subscribe, change the playing speed of episodes, and trim silence but also allows users to share specific parts of an episode!  

A few years ago, I met a gentleman by the name of Ben Dickson, currently an assistant principal in Reno, NV (when I make my move to Reno in a few weeks, my kids will be going to his school!).  He and I have been talking for years about collaborating on some sort of project to share our expertise, most likely a podcast, but never really was able to nail down something or commit the time to it.  That changed a few months ago when I came up with an idea to combine two of Ben and I's favorite things:  education and beer.  The idea blossomed into The BeerEDU Podcast: The podcast for educators that love to learn and share ideas with fellow educators over beers! Essentially, the concept of the podcast is to model the conversations that educators have with one another at the pub on a Friday afternoon while unwinding after a long week.

As of this writing, Ben and I have recorded and published our first episode, outlining who we are, the podcast's format, and what we expect it to become when we begin recording regular episodes. We are hoping to post 2-3 episodes a month starting in August 2018, and because there are so many great people with a wealth of knowledge that needs to be shared with the world, we will be looking for guests in which to have a great conversation over a fine beer or any other beverage for those that are not beer drinkers. On top of that, you may learn a thing or two about beer lingo!

The BeerEDU Podcast is available on all podcast platforms, including Anchor, Apple (awaiting approval as of this writing, but will be available soon), Google, Stitcher, Spotify, Radio Public, Breaker, and Pocket Casts. You can follow Ben and The BeerEDU Podcast on Twitter and use the hashtag #BeerEDUPod. Since we are new to the podcast game, Ben and I appreciate any suggestions, compliments, and critiques, so feel free to let us know! We look forward to this journey, learning from one another and our guests to become better educators, and discovering some great beers along the way!

Until next time...

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Five Chrome Extensions You Must Have!

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In the multiple times I typed "browser", I typed "Bowser" first.  Have no fear,
Mario will defeat Bowser and show you how to improve your Chrome
experience! Image courtesy of
One of my favorite things about the Google Chrome browser is the ability to add extensions to improve productivity while surfing the web or putting together lessons, activities, etc.  These little programs range from ad blockers and shortcuts to websites, to URL shorteners and memory savers, and so much more.  If there is something that you think should be easier to do within the Chrome browser, odds are, the Chrome Web Store probably has something to address your wants and needs.  

Over the course of several years of using Google Chrome, I have amassed quite the collection of Chrome extensions.  Some of these extensions are ones that I absolutely use every day, such as AdBlock Plus, Pin Tab, and Reopen Closed Tab.  There are also extensions that I don't use very often, so I turn them off most of the time to save on memory and prevent the browser from bogging down, such as Cite This For Me and Google Tone.  To control my extensions, I use an extension (I know, right?) called Extensity to easily toggle extensions on and off.  

While I could drone on and on about all of the Chrome extensions I have connected to my account, there isn't time and it's really not necessary.  However, the following are five Chrome extensions that I think are a must-have for your everyday productivity.  

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Image courtesy of
OneTab:  We all get into that situation where we have numerous tabs open in the browser.  Sometimes you're not even viewing a certain tab, but it's still open for when you need to see it, such as your email.  OneTab helps you to organize tabs and cut down on memory Chrome uses to run when so many tabs are open.  When clicking on the OneTab extension, it collapses all open tabs into a single tab with a list of URLs.  You can reopen tabs from the list one at a time, or you can restore all tabs with a single click.  OneTab allows you to name a set of websites and lock them so they open in a single tab every time you open Chrome.  You can also export a list of websites as the extension creates a unique URL of your list so it can be shared, perfect for sending students a list of websites for viewing during a lesson.  

I have two sets of websites saved in OneTab that I use on a regular basis.  One set that I titled Most Used is links to my email, Google Drive, Google Keep, and Google Calendar.  Another set of tabs that I have saved links to my master's coursework, with my school email, school Google Drive, and student portal.  I also have the options to create other lists when I need them.  

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Sir Links-A-Lot:  One of the reasons why Google Drive and each of the Google productivity apps are so great is because you have the ability to share files with others.  Sometimes, you want to give people a copy of a file and give them editing rights, but you don't want them to edit your copy, so you use the file's URL to change it from "edit" to copy", forcing recipients to make a copy of it when they click on the link, which also takes out the "File - Make a Copy" step.  Sir Links-A-Lot makes this process quicker and easier but allowing you to simply click on the extension and create the force copy link.  However, Sir Links-A-Lots does more!  It allows users to not only create a force copy link, but also a preview link so recipients can see the document, a template link, and a .pdf link.  Once you have selected which of the four options you want to use, it allows you to copy the link to the clipboard, shorten the URL and copy it, and open the item in a new tab.  

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Image courtesy of
One thing that it does not do is change your shared settings.  You must still open up the setting and change them so people can access the force copy, template, etc.  The easiest way to that is to change the setting within the Docs, Slides, Sheets, or Drawings file to "anyone with the link can view."  If that is too much work for you, there is a Chrome extension called Alice Keeler's AnyoneCanView that will change the settings of a file in one click to anyone with the link can view (I guess this makes it six extensions you must have... bonus freebie for you!).

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Image courtesy of
Wakelet:  Wakelet is the program that I never knew I needed.  Wakelet allows users to curate content from the web into stories that are easier to organize and share.  After creating a Wakelet account, install the Wakelet extension and anytime you find something online that you think is worth saving and/or sharing, click on the extension and save it into a new collection or "wake".  You can save images, articles, and my favorite, tweets and Facebook posts.  Want others to contribute to a collection?  You can do that too!  I have already started to curate some great blog posts in a wake that I called Pro Dev.   You can see what I have thus far at

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Microsoft Office Online:  I have been using G Suite for Education apps for several years now.  For the most part, I don't open Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, etc. unless I absolutely have to, and even then, because Google allows you to download Docs into Word format, Sheets into Excel format, Slides into PowerPoint format, and any file into a .pdf, I haven't had much use for Office tools in the past few years.  There are a handful of things that Office tools can do that Google can't.  For example, tables are much easier to work within a Word document than a Docs file, and PowerPoint is more robust in a few ways than Slides, but it's not enough to stop me from using Google.

I recently started a master's program where I am required to submit my work in Office files and the student portal isn't 100% compatible with Chrome OS on my Chromebook, which I use about 75% of the time over my PC.  I wanted a way to be able to still use my Chromebook and work with Office files.  Microsoft offers the ability to use Office and OneDrive online and it syncs with the hard drive on my PC, saving any work that I do in Office and OneDrive online.  As nice as this is, there are a lot of steps and clicks to get to a file or open a new file when I want to get to work.  The Microsoft Office Online Chrome extension eliminates the multiple clicks and allows you to create a new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. right from the extension.  You can also open OneDrive with a single click and a list of recent files will also appear from the extension.  If you have a file on your computer that isn't in OneDrive, you can upload it into Office online and open it in the browser with a click from the extension as well.  Don't have Microsoft Office installed on your computer?  Don't worry, you don't need to have Office installed since it all works within the Chrome browser.

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Save to Keep:  In my opinion, one of the most underutilized and underrated Google applications is Google Keep.  I wrote a post about Google Keep a few months back, touting the abilities and potential of this great tool.  While Keep is great for making lists, saving images, bookmarking websites, and so much more, it can be even better using the Save to Keep Chrome extension.  By clicking on the extension or right clicking on a website, you can not only save the link, but you can add notes about the page without having to navigate to a new tab, opening Keep, creating a note, copying the link, so on and so forth.  With one click, you can do it all!

Found an image that you want to hold onto?  Right-click on the image, click on the Google Keep extension option from the list and select Save Image.  From there, you can write notes, mark up the image, etc. within Keep.  Use the Keep notepad options in Google Docs, Slides, and Drawings to directly import notes and images that you save using the extension, saving you clicks, time, and based on my previous post, your sanity!

Like I stated previously, I could go on and on about various extensions that I use regularly.  I am always on the lookout for new ones as well.  What are some of your favorite Chrome extensions?  Share your thoughts on how they make your professional and personal life easier!  And if you happen to be at ISTE18 in Chicago, for the record, I am really jealous of you and I look forward to seeing the learning that is happening on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.  Oh, and the pictures of the amazing food of the Midwest that I miss so much sometimes!

Until next time...