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AR vs VR

Augmented Reality – Virtual Reality? How can I use these to enhance and extend student learning?

Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that is “immersive” – in other words, it requires your complete focus on content that is most often found using a headset of some type (Google Cardboard, Samsung’s GearVR, and View-Master VR are some of the most popular ones.) VR changes the way we watch and interact with content. YouTube now has a Virtual Reality Channel with more content being added every day – not all of it “school appropriate”, however. Simply pull up one of the videos on your SmartPhone, insert it into your VR headset of choice, and enjoy! Luke Symonds, CAM High School social studies teacher from Iowa, had his students experience the Revolutionary War using Google Cardboard viewers and students’ phones and earbuds. Thanks to Google Expeditions, many students have been able to go on Virtual Field Trips to places they never could visit otherwise!

Augmented Reality (AR) enhances reality and the “real world” rather than taking us out of it. AR adds a layer of information (text, images, video, 3D) to something that is tangible and real. This tangible thing is usually called a target and could be a photo in a magazine or a photo that you’ve taken, student artwork or other creations, a world landmark, the sky or even a package of Oreos!!

There are many AR apps available in the education realm: Aurasma, StarWalk 2, Anatomy 4D, Start Chart, Google Translate, Google SkyMap, AR Flashcards, Spacecraft 3D, Osmo (play beyond the screen of an iPad), and more! Here is a chart with links to many educational AR apps available – most are free.

I see the future of AR and VR for enhancing educational experiences for students growing exponentially! You and your students don’t have to wait – the future is now!!

Google Keep just joined Google Docs


For those of you out there who like using sticky notes and can’t get enough of Pinterest, you will love Google Keep.  It is virtual sticky notes and so much more.  I was not a fan as I am a list person, not pictures.  It is always good to take a second look and now that Google Keep is integrated with Google Docs under Tools, I am feeling enthusiastic.  It does sync across all types of devices.  So let me share some of the features and end with a YouTube Video from the Ditch the Textbook blog.  

First of all, it works on all devices and syncs your resources.  I really like the audio notes because it records your note and transcribes it.  

You can add collaborators to your Google Keeps and you can organize them with labels and color coding.  

An amazing feature which you will see in the video is how Google Keep turns a text picture into editable text.  

Of course, it sets reminders and has checklists.  The reminders can be the usual ones based on date and time or it has another fantastic feature where the reminder is based on your location.  Works with GPS.  

You can search your Google Keep.  No more, ‘where did I put that note’.  It has a Chrome extension so it is easy to add a website to your Google Keep.  This could be a great way to save your favorites.  

10 ways Google Keep can streamline your life at school by Ditch That Textbook

Adobe Spark Post, Page and Video!

Adobe – long known for their excellent digital creativity products like Creative Cloud, has created and offered FREE Adobe Spark Post, Page, and Video to make blogs, websites, and videos that are easy and eye-catching! You can either create them online (yes, for Chromebooks too) or using the iOS mobile apps.  These three tools are easy enough for elementary students to use but are so “professional” looking that many businesses are using them!

Go to Adobe Spark in the Classroom to see student examples, lesson plans, and teacher work.



Many think that a PDF is static… you can’t do anything but read it. But here are two Google Chrome Apps/Extensions that allow you to copy text from a PDF, annotate, draw on, comment, “white out”, underline, and more: Kami and DocHub.

To start, open a PDF from your Google Drive. Above the PDF, click on “Open with…”, choose “Connect More Apps” and search for Kami and/or DocHub. (You may have to ask your GAFE administrator to ok these extensions in your domain.) Allow it to connect to your Google Drive. Now, click open with… and choose either Kami or DocHub. They both allow you to do basic annotations but they also each have tools that the other does not. For example, DocHub will allow you to insert blank fields (text, checkboxes, signatures, initials, etc) and Kami does not. DocHub’s free version allows you to legally digitally sign up to 3 documents a month and you can have others digitally sign the same document as well. Of course, there are Pro (paid) versions of both Kami and DocHub for anyone who wants more than the basics.

Here is a quick overview of Kami:

Here is a screencast for DocHub to get you started:

Spotting a “fake”


I rarely say, “what happened to the good old days?”, because I do firmly believe these are the best of days.  However, in the field of information and access to information, I do long for the days when I used a book, an encyclopedia, a textbook, a magazine and/or Walter Cronkite to get information which I could be confident was accurate.  The present day allows access to information resources 24/7 most of which are not vetted for accuracy.

Fake news has been around since of the invention of the printing press.  These stories are always sensationalized, use people’s prejudices and often incite violence.  The late 1800’s and early 1900’s saw newspapers use ‘yellow journalism’ to sell papers.  It was not until the 20th century that news reporting took on a professional and ethical cloak.  Is that being threatened now by free internet pseudo news outlets?  Yes; it is!! This can be attributed to how easy and fast news can travel via the Internet.  It is disturbing to see how eagerly people accept these fabrications without question.  news-1729539_1920

So what is the role of education to arm students with the tools they need to spot a fake?  “Digital literacy is the ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”  The key verb is ‘evaluate’.  According to a study from Stanford University, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning” ‘student’s ability to reason about the information on the internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.’

What can educators do?  Teaching evaluation skills usually is a one class/year event.  

The good news is that teaching students to evaluate content isn’t all that hard to do.  

Have students Ask these questions when reading non-fiction content:

  1. How believable is this story to me?  
  2. What do I know about this news source?
  3. Can I spot any loaded words in the piece I am reading?

Here are some tips on how to spot ‘fake news’:

  1. Stay away from sites with suspicious-looking web addresses, like those ending in .lo or
  2. Pay attention to the article’s author. If there’s no byline on a story, or there is only one author for every post on the entire website, watch out. It may be an imposter.
  3. Check if there’s an “about me” section on the website. This makes it easier to spot whether the news source is legitimate.
  4. Get your news from a variety of places. The best way to ensure that you’re not scammed by fake news is to read from a diverse array of news sources, and not just what pops up on a Facebook feed.

Resources for teaching “Evaluating the Internet”.  


Critical Evaluation by Kathy Schrock

The Advanced Google Searches Every Student Should Know by Alan November



Literacy and Tech Webcast

Green Hills AEA (Southwest Iowa) Digital Learning Consultants, Maryann and Judy, met with Lynn Hockenberry, one of our expert Literacy Consultants creating a combination webinar/podcast. (See recorded video at end of this article.) We discussed the K-5 Iowa Core Literacy Standards and the technology embedded within those standards. Some of the vocabulary that definitely alludes to using technology to meet the standards includes: digital text, electronic menu, multimedia, icons, sidebars, hyperlinks, digital tools, dictate, research, digital sources, keyboarding, create engaging audio recordings, publish…

Here is a Google Slide presentation listing each kind of standard (Writing, Speaking and Listening, Reading, and Language) and some more suggested tools for teachers and students to meet those standards.

The tools that Lynn shared included:

  • Newsela – Free leveled news, primary sources, and more, with standards-aligned formative assessments.
  • Glogster – create multimedia posters
  • Blabberize – fun way to combine writing and fluency
  • ComicLife – get kids writing with this comic maker!

Check out Lynn’s Blog, Lynn’s Literacy LINCS!

Maryann summarized an article entitled: Strategies to Help Students ‘Go Deep’ When Reading Digitally and even better, showed an example of how to do it using Google Docs – according to suggestions in the article.

Hope you find this short webinar/podcast helpful!

OpenEd – Assessment, Videos, Homework, Lesson Plans


OpenEd offers over a million assessments, homework assignments, videos, games, and lesson plans aligned to standards including Next Generation Science, Common Core Math and English Language Arts, TEKS, and more. Teachers will find any online resources their students need at this one stop shop! The formative assessments and “homework” are graded automatically. If a student misses a question, OpenEd connects them with a video or game to help them master that skill.

OpenEd resources can be shared via Google Classroom, Edmodo, Schoology, and many other LMS’s. There is also an app from OpenEd called Common Core Quest that is available from Chrome Web Store, iOS app store, or Google Play. This is a resource perfect for your Blended or Flipped Classroom!


Grab a seat on your couch and join educators from all over the world for a 24 hour free online conference.  Get tips and tools to boost student engagement, collaboration and productivity in the classroom.  Sessions around the clock and around the world.  December 2, 2016 at 5:00 PM — December 3, 2016 at 6:00 PM CST.  Register for the Event.


Follow the hashtag on Twitter to see who is presenting and on what topics.  #GoogleEduOnAir

Cyber Security Curriculum from ISU


Iowa State University has created the nation’s first cyber security curriculum for the K-12 classroom.  We hear a lot about literacy and digital literacy.  What about security literacy?  The Security Literacy Project is dedicated to providing educators the materials needed to teach security-literacy to grades K – 16. The prime goal of practical computer security literacy is to provide students with the information and processes to secure their digital devices and information. The topics and objectives of the teaching modules are designed specifically to meet this goal.

The primary method for educating students and the general public about cyber security has been through limited awareness campaigns and the construction of top-ten security lists.  

Formal computer security education is the key to combating the threats intrinsic to the Information Age.  Each day, people are inundated with alerts and pop-ups informing them about patch updates, antivirus signatures, firewall exceptions, suspicious emails, and malware threats but lack the proper education or vocabulary to make value-based decisions regarding the benefits and consequences of taking specific action on these items.  This course in practical computer security provides the context and knowledge for students to apply computer security best practices when faced with a novel situation and the ability to be proactive, not reactive, in the face of new threats. It is argued that computer security literacy is not only the next logical step in computer security defense; it is the most important step that, we, as individuals can take.  Through this website and project ISU encourages and promotes security literacy.

Two types of materials are available to support various classroom settings and curricular objectives.  

  • The first set of materials are called Cyber-Toons and are short (1-2 minutes) videos designed to be played in a class to simulate discussion around a topic.  The Cyber-Toons can be included into any class and are more targeted at middle schools.  An instructors guide, discussion questions, and short assessments are provided with each of the Cyber-Toons.
  • The second set of materials are longer modules (5 to 10 minutes) that are also in video format.  These are designed to be used in class or in a “flipped” course (where students watch the videos before class).  Like the Cyber-Toons instructors can pick modules based on topic to be included in any existing course.   A curriculum for a school that wants to teach an entire course on security literacy is also provided.  The modules are designed for upper middle school and high school.  

Access the course at

Awesome Tables are… Awesome!

Awesome Tables is a web application that allows you to turn Google spreadsheet data into easy to filter tables, maps, cards, and more. The Awesome Table documentation will help you create your first table step by step. You might want to look at the example templates on their site first to get an idea of what this application can do!

Once you’ve created your Awesome Table, you can either let people view it on the Awesome Table site or embed it into your Google Site with Insert>Gadget – then search the public gadgets for Awesome Table.

Here is an example table view made by copying the spreadsheet of all the Google Expeditions available to teachers and students.

Here is an example of the Geocode template which creates a Google Map from Spreadsheet Data – this one is on some Famous Iowans.

Here is an example of the Cards template – the Google sheet pulled in all the tweets with our #ghaea hashtag, then Awesome Tables makes it not only sortable and clickable but easy on the eyes!