Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Add Shortcuts To Mobile Devices

There seems to be an app for everything these days. However, many "apps" just gather information or services that are already available on the Web and deliver it to us in a format that fits our screens... and our thumbs.

Sadly in this app-centric world, we have come to expect that the information we consume via mobile devices must be found in an "app store." That misconception can be corrected with very little effort.


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Mindset Book Study

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How can you help students - and yourself - focus on the factors that lead to positive growth to foster increasing success? Author Carol Dweck offers her insights on the topic based on years of research in Mindset, The New Psychology of Success. Dweck examines the characteristics and origins of two mindsets - fixed and growth - and how they influence achievements in various areas of our lives. The book closes with ideas to help change mindsets to focus on positive growth and perseverance.

Our Book Study will meet 4 times (once monthly) from February through May 2018. Our discussions will focus on how we can apply Dweck's research directly to our classrooms, our students, and ourselves. 

The first 25 persons to commit to all four meetings will receive a copy of Dweck's Mindset book free!

This is open to all teachers and administrators in Galesburg CUSD 205.

Danielson Components addressed:
1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
2b: Establishing a Culture for Learning
4a: Reflecting on Teaching
4d: Participating in the Professional Community
4e: Growing & Developing Professionally

Thursday, December 7, 2017

PLCs, Training, and PD Credits

(For Galesburg CUSD 205 only) 

I am often questioned about awarding PD Credit for department or team meetings, etc. My answer has been and continues to be "No." 

Long Story Short: 

A gathering of educators talking about stuff is NOT a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and will not be awarded PD Credit in our school district.

The Long Story:

  • School Districts are not allowed to give PD Credit for routine meetings and activities within the usual & expected duties of an educator's assignment. 
    • Such duties are determined by Principals or direct supervisors, not me. Talk to your Principal first.
  • We can give PD Credits for training and limited follow-up/implementation meetings IF those meetings are solely for improving upon the execution of skills taught in the training. 
    • By "limited" I'm going to stick to my previous guideline of "within the semester when the training was delivered," unless there are specific circumstances that require a different implementation timeline. 
      • Examples: Ongoing training conducted throughout the year, Training given near the end of a semester, As directed by the Superintendent, etc. 
  • Specific PLC meetings can be counted for PD Credit, but rebranding a staff or department meeting is NOT a PLC, as such meetings are often focused on the usual & expected duties of an educator's assignment. (see above)  
    • I will continue to say "no" to such requests until formal training in how to lead a PLC is conducted.
    • I will re-assess that decision after such training is delivered, provided the PLC meetings are led by a trained facilitator and conform to the intent & purpose of the true PLC model and are conducted with fidelity according the training delivered.
      • PLC training IS eligible for PD Credit, however.
Specific guidance for educators is available from ISBE
Both of these documents are freely available to the public, and have been provided to all educators in the past. These are the latest versions of such guidance (at the time of this publication) and supercede any/all previous/older documentsThis is not new information. 
PD Credits must be requested via internal email at least 2 weeks in advance, with clear training outcomes, training dates/locations, and anticipated agenda topics. PD Credits well never be awarded retroactively. The Illinois State Board of Education does not allow the awarding of PD Credits without a completed sign in and a completed evaluation form from each individual participating in the training.   

Questions from Galesburg CUSD 205 staff should be delivered via school email. 
Public commenting is turned off for this post.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Keeping Up With Google

Recently I was asked, "How do you stay up-to-date with Google updates?"

Great question! First off, if you think I am going to take credit for being "up-to-date" on Google or anything else for that matter, or that I have some sort of magic crystal ball that lets me see things before anyone else, you're sadly mistaken. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite flattered, but there are lots of people who know lots more about this stuff than I do. I've always said, "Good teachers are great thieves." Well, I may not be in a classroom, but I still practice a little petty larceny when it comes to tech info and updates. 😉

But I was just getting used to that...!

One of the amazing things about Google is their responsiveness to teacher input. When you click the little ❓ button in most GSuite for Education applications, someone at Google really does actually read your feedback! In my opinion, I think that shows how committed they are to (1) making their products better, and (2) helping teachers and kids in classrooms. Now, is their timing perfect? Do they make every change that is suggested? The answer to both is, of course, "No." But I think it is undeniable that Google does make a conscious effort. 

  • Now, to be clear: I work in a Google for Education/GSuite school district. Do other product/service vendors, etc., have someone read & respond to user feedback as well? Perhaps. I really don't know. This is not intended to slight others - This is simply a response to a question I received specific to Google tools. 
An unfortunate consequence to such a service is the appearance that things change "all the time." Google - and most software/hardware vendors for that matter - update products on a regular schedule. They have to in order to stay relevant. If they don't, the product gets stale and "dies," and old, outdated products are just not good for business.

Innovate or die.

Teachers are really busy, but they understand the importance of remaining as up-to-date as possible on things related to their classroom pedagogy and content area(-s). It's hard just keeping up with current events related to their subject matter, much less with technology trends. So, often they prioritize their time by keeping up on the latest classroom management trends or advances in their content area instead. In other words, they tend to err on the side of keeping up with the kids' behaviors and questions, while gadgets and interwebs take a back seat.

So, how can we keep up? 

I am happy to share with you how I keep up. Maybe some of these ideas will work for you. Maybe you have better ideas than mine. Please feel free to share!

I have turned into a total Google-icious fanboy over the past couple of years. I do love many of Google's own resources, like
I also gather info in lots of other ways...
Full Disclosure: It also helps that I don't have kids in my house, and that I don't have papers to grade anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. But does that mean YOU can't stay in-the-know? Of course not! I didn't start all of these things overnight. This partial listing is a compilation of adding one little thing here and there over my 10 years in my current position, and approaching 25 years in education overall. Like integrating technology into your classroom, maybe you can just start slowly by modifying a single thing you are already doing:
  • Maybe your commute is shorter than mine, but you spend 45 minutes a day at the gym. (Bless you - You're amazing!) Before cranking up your workout playlist in your headphones, maybe you'll get #superexcited during your workout by listening to the Google Teacher Tribe this week. 
  • Postpone streaming one episode during your next binge-fest for a quick EDU in 90 fix. 
  • If Twitter moves too fast for you, try one weekly email from Practical Ed Tech
It isn't hard to keep up with Google updates - it's just developing a new habit. If I can do it, you can, too!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

First Look: Equatio

Equatio is a math tool that can be used with Google Docs and other word processing tools to insert "math language" into text. Equatio is now free for educators to use. I'll make no guarantees about student use at this time, as I simply haven't had time to look into it yet.

The video below shows a quick first look at Equatio, and I hope this will encourage you to explore it in more depth on your own.

H/T to Richard Byrne & Free Tech for Teachers, where I first learned about this. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Switching to the NEW Google Calendar

Google Calendar just got a facelift!

Don't be afraid to switch - you can always switch back if you don't like it. Please feel free to explore, as I'm sure I will.

Here's a brief video about how to switch over and what it will look like after you do.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Change Your EdLeaders Network Password

All users should change their EdLeaders Network password. If you receive an email from,, or NetForum, your process should be very simple - click the link and go. However, ELN and IPA have been having some trouble getting things up and running for us this summer, so here's a quick tutorial to check the status of your account.

This video will explain the sign up & password change process:

Once you are in the new EdLeaders Network you'll find that you have been assigned an orientation "course" and you may also see a "program" (containing several courses) called IL Annual Mandated Training. You can work through the courses at your own pace, but you do NOT have to repeat any training that your building principal may conduct at your building in staff meeting sessions.

Here's how to navigate the new EdLeaders Network portal.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Getting Your Tech Questions Answered in District 205

If you need assistance with technology tools, both formal policies and informal procedures are in place to help you use our District’s technology tools:
  • If you are having difficulties with classroom hardware or software, use the Tech Help Request link, which is found under the For Staff tab on the District website. These messages go directly to the Technology Department and will be routed to someone who can help you.
  • If you have questions about content displayed on school level websites or social media presences, contact your building principal.
    • Additionally, every school website has a Contact Us form that delivers an email directly to someone at your building who can help you.
  • If you have questions about content displayed on the District level website or social media presences, please contact me, Technology Director Rick Lawsha, or anyone in his Technology Department, in that order.
    • As with school websites, the District site also has a prominent Contact Us link that delivers messages directly and simultaneously to Technology Director Rick Lawsha and myself. Together, we will always be happy to work with you to address issues as best we can, route your concern to someone if we can’t help, and if needed, revisit the problem if it is not fixed on the first try.
  • If you would like help incorporating instructional technology into your lessons and other classroom activities, please contact Matt Jacobson via email (mjacobson) or phone (2108).
  • Visit the Technology and Learning Website to find LOTS of resources to help you with your day-to-day tech use.
    • How Do I…? pages will help you learn to use tools from Skyward to our school telephones.
    • Tech & PD Updates are archived on this page, too. Returning staff members can refresh their memories about tech they haven’t used for a while by browsing through this list. This page will be posted there, too!
    • Visit our Internet Safety Curriculum pages to find lots of good teaching tips to help keep kids safe online!

Finally, remember that I am always willing to receive your direct emails. Also know that I will try to respond as personally and as quickly as I can. If I am unable to help, I will tell you and I will route your concern to someone who can provide assistance. However, sometimes I may need your help in fully identifying where those specific problems exist.

Mentor & New Teacher Info Updated for 2017

Information for Mentors can be found on the Mentor Information web page.

New Teacher information can be found on the New Teachers web page

If you have any questions, please email mjacobsongalesburgorg

Import SMART Notebook to Promethean Flipcharts

Several teachers have asked about importing SMART Notebook files to use with Promethean Board software. It is extremely simple:

If you use ActiveInspire, check out this quick video:

However, Promethean Planet is moving over to a new environment called ClassFlow, which works really well on both the desktop and the web-based version (for Chromebooks). The process is simple with ClassFlow software, too - here's how:

Just plug a flash drive containing your SMART Notebook files into a Chromebook (Internet connection required) and create a free account to get started!

Create A Classflow Account
2. Click the LogIn button (not Create An Account... trust me...)

3. Log in as a Teacher

4. Scroll down and log in with your G+ profile 

5. Turn off your pop-up blocker if needed and select your school GMail account

6. Go to the Resources tab and click the NEW button. At the bottom of the menu, click Convert and choose SMART Notebook (or Power Point, or ActivInspire Flipchart, etc.) 

Try EduClipper as a Pinterest Alternative

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We understand that lots of educators use Pinterest to gather & organize links and images they find while browsing the Web. Unfortunately, lots of people use Pinterest for purposes that are not appropriate for school. In short: Perverts Pin Porn. So how can you curate Web resources on a site that's safer for your classroom?

EduClipper is an educationally-oriented alternative to Pinterest. It works in much the same way - users can organize websites, images, documents, etc., into “Boards” and “Portfolios” that you can share with others. It even has a mobile app and a bookmarklet: just drag the “eduClip It” button up to your browser's bookmark bar to make things a lot easier.

EduClipper has several education-specific features that allow you to create groups and virtual classes. Teachers can share Boards to all students or create differentiated groups. It will allow you to create Assignments by adding clips, images, Google Docs, etc., to a Board. Students can attach their new work to the Board and share it back with the teacher.

When teachers create a class, a class portfolio is automatically created to help students track their work during the term or school year. Teachers can give targeted feedback via document, comment, or audio/video upload.

Give EduClipper a try!

Note: I learned about EduClipper from Free Tech For Teachers 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Chromebook Basics for Students & Parents

Here's a brief tutorial about basic procedures & practices for student use of Chromebooks in District #205 (especially students in Grades 6-12 who can take our devices home)...

Here's a similar video geared toward parents...

Student not visible in Hapara Highlights?

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Our district uses Hapara in Grades 6-12 to monitor student Chromebook use. (It is not currently available in our elementary grades) This is an optional service - teachers are not required to use it, but many choose to do so.

Hapara Highlights, which allows teachers view what kids see on-screen, works as a browser extension. We experimented with disabling a student's abilities to modify the setting, but the unexpected consequences of doing so were (1) ELLs and Foreign Language students couldn't use international keyboards, and (2) special needs students couldn’t enable accessibility features. So, that means kids can disable & re-enable Hapara Highlights at will, resulting in students having the ability to “hide” their screens from their teachers’ abilities to view remotely.

Effective use of any technology relies on teachers' strong classroom management procedures. Hapara was never designed to eliminate that need, just assist with it. However, if disabling Hapara Highlights becomes a recurring problem, I would urge you to educate students that behavioral consequences can be activated. Notify building administration as needed.

Before you do that, however, please try the following troubleshooting tips to keep kids in your classroom and continue their learning experience with as little interruption as possible.

First, have the student log in to the device and open a browser window. On the student's device and look for this icon near the top of the screen:
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If you see the icon, click it and follow the instructions on-screen.

To interpret the results, see the Highlights Student Diagnostics Check support article

If you don't see the icon, follow the following steps...
  • First, make sure the Chromebook is updated. Look for an upward-pointing arrow near the time display in the lower right corner of the screen. If you see it, click it and restart the device to update. 
  • Next, with the student logged-in, open Chrome and click the 3-dot menu, upper right corner
  • Point to More Tools and choose Extensions
  • Scroll down to find Hapara Highlights extension and check the box next to Enabled
CRITICAL FINAL STEP: Inform the student that there can be behavioral consequences it the extension is disabled again. Then, if it happens again, follow through consistently and fairly according to your administrator's instructions.

Reference: Item 2.1 on Page 2 of the Chromebook Policy that all students and/or guardians agreed to at registration: 

​"d. ... attempting​ to change the ​... ​D​istrict settings of or to the devic​e​ will subject the Student to discipline.​"​
​"​i. ​The District can and will locate, access, and modify Chromebooks remotely, even when in a Student’s possession. Modifying, disabling or attempting to disable the locator or any District​ ​software​ used for tracking or accessing a Chromebook​ ​is a violation of the Authorization for Student Internet Access and Acceptable Use of the Internet​ and grounds for disciplinary action​..."
See the District’s Chromebook Policy under the For Students or For Parents tabs on the CJHS, LMS, GHS, GHS-N, and District websites. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

End of Year Tech Procedures for D205 Teachers

District #205 Educators:

Before you check out at the end of the school year, please review the
End of Year Tech Procedures to make sure your tech tools will be ready to go next school year.
NOTE: Technology Department staff will do their best to clean the inside & outside of your teacher workstation PC over the summertime. Please clear off a space around your device so they can clean without disturbing other items.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May PD Opportunities for D205 Teachers

District #205 Teachers! Some amazing opportunities for professional learning are available for you! Not only are they all FREE, you can earn a stipend of up to $100 for attending!

Course Offerings and links to detailed descriptions: 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Revoke App Access

For Staff and Students... The recent email weirdness seems to be a bit more under control, and Google Drive seems to be back up and running again. 
Please take a moment and show your students how to (1) delete all those odd emails and empty their trash, and (2) complete the following check of app permissions: 

"I clicked on the link - now what do I do?" 

  • First, don't panic. This was a huge, Google-wide issue. It's not your fault. 
  • If you simply opened the email and saw a big blue button but didn't click on it, you're okay, but just in case, read on... 
  • If the blue button in the email was clicked, you were likely asked to give permission to something pretending to be "Google Docs" to access your account. If you did NOT allow this permission, you should be okay, but just in case, read on... 
  • Once access was granted to a user's account, this fake "Google Docs" app would then try to take over a user's GMail and Contacts, sending requests to re-share the bogus email to everyone in the user's Contacts.  

THE GOOD NEWS: You can revoke an app's access to your account at any time! This is a handy tip, even if you were unaffected today. 
  • Visit - Really... it's okay... it's safe... 
  • You'll see a list of "Apps connected to your account" like the screenshot below 
    • Inline image 3  
  • Look down the list for an app called "Google Docs", click on it, and click the big blue  REMOVE  button 
    • Don't worry - the real Google Docs doesn't need this permission and won't show up on this screen 
  • Click OK when you see the "Remove Access" screen. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Publish Any Google Document to the Web

Any Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides file can be published as an interactive web document!
It is a super-simple, and if you make any changes they will be automagically updated!
This is a great tool for lots of school & classroom uses, as described in this video.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Renew Your Illinois Teaching License

Beginning April 1, 2017, educators in Illinois may begin renewing their Professional Educator's Licenses (P.E.L.s). There are 2 steps: Entering Professional Development Credits (formerly known as CPDUs), and then completing the Renewal Process online.

STEP 1: Entering PD Credits

Watch on Vimeo or below:

STEP 2: Renewing Your Professional Educator's License (P.E.L.) 

Watch on Vimeo or below: 


Questions about this process should be referred to your Regional Office of Education (ROE)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bullying Prevention Center

Add caption provides many resources to help teachers understand bullies and their victims, and offers training in how to prevent bullying in their schools and classrooms.

Astronaut Scott Kelly Speaks Out Against Bullying

Find more video resources at the StopBullyingGov YouTube channel

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Digital Literacy in the Era of "Fake News"
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Lots of recent news stories have discussed the fear of "hacking" and "fake news." It seems like no place on the Internet is safe from nefarious malfeasances these days. Isn't there anything we can do to stay safe and appropriately informed in this digital age? 
Yes. It involves teaching Digital Literacy and Internet Safety. These are not topics that the Tech teacher or English teacher should address - every teacher should actively teach students how to be safe online at every possible opportunity. If you're not doing this yet, there's no better time to get started than right now!  
Yesterday an email appeared in my inbox from Education World involving this exact topic. Among other things, the message provided free ready-made lesson plans and resources to help teachers guard against the spreading of "fake news." 
In that message it was also revealed that the American Press Institute and Newsela have teamed up to improve media literacy instruction by focusing on 6 questions: 
  • TYPE: What kind of content is this? 
  • SOURCE: Who & what are the sources cited, & why should I believe them? 
  • EVIDENCE: What's the evidence & how was it vetted? 
  • INTERPRETATION: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence? 
  • COMPLETENESS: What's missing? 
  • KNOWLEDGE: Am I learning every day what I need? 
(See more resources in Newsela's Media Literacy Toolkit)
National Public Radio offers these tips to help us all be wary of potential fake-news from Melissa Zimdars, Assistant Professor of Communications at Merrimack College:   
  • Pay attention to the domain & URL 
  • Read the "About Us" section 
  • Look at the quotes in a story
  • Look at who said them
  • Check the comments
  • Reverse image search 

While I'm sure there are many more resources to help you teach Internet Safety and Digital Literacy, these new resources may help you get on your way to helping your students become active and critical consumers of information. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Using Google Classroom from Home

This week 3 or 4 people have relayed parent concerns about accessing Google Classroom from home using a personally owned device like a home computer or tablet.

There's a simple solution: Make sure the student (or parent) is logged into the student's school account.

Here's a quick video explaining the issue and demonstrating the solution.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

PARCC Resources

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The following resources are available to help prepare students for the upcoming 2017 PARCC assessment

PARCC Online Assessment Links:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Googleicious Podcasts for Educators

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Those who know me know that I commute about 35 minutes to and from work every day, each way. During the new year I'm also spending a little time on the stationary bike trying to be more active. (I'm definitely looking forward to warmer weather when I can get outside again!) Whether I'm in the car or on the bike, I generally listen to podcasts to brush up on my skills and learn new ideas.

Podcasts are simply audio recordings that are distributed via Internet. You don't have to have an iPod or other mp3 player to listen - most folks download via smartphone or computer/tablet. While there are lots of different ways to listen to podcasts, I generally choose Google Play Music and YouTube since these work nicely across my smartphone, Chromebook, and desktop.

Here are my current go-to podcasts for tech-enabled education topics, and the links I use to listen - I'm sure you can find these on other platforms, too!

Video Podcasts (for the workout) 

Audio Podcasts (for the commute) 

NOTE: Matt Miller will keynote the 2nd annual Whatever It Takes Conference in Galesburg, IL. Join us June 14-16, 2017!
Visit for details!

Other Podcasts I follow: 

  • Goin' Digital with Dr. Greg Goins is another non-Google podcast I follow. This southern Illinois superintendent conducts periodic hour-long interviews with some of the movers and shakers in the EdTech world 
  • I also listen to the TED Radio Hour from NPR when I need a break from tech topics. While not Google-centric, I simply do not have words to recommend this thought-inspiring podcast highly enough!

Happy Listening and Learning! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Using Google Hangouts in District 205

Google Hangouts (sometimes referred to as "GHO") is a great tool for helping your classes communicate with an authentic audience. Hangouts allows teachers to video chat with people outside of your school environment, allowing for virtual guest speakers, virtual field trips, and so on. And, since it's Google-icious, you can also share screens and Google Documents, etc., remotely as well!

This quick 1-min video will cover the basics of Google Hangouts if you've never used it before.

However, within our school domain, Google Hangouts is blocked from our student Chromebooks and also cannot be accessed via our public wifi connection, so using the combination of a desktop workstation & classroom display is your best way to access and use GHO in a whole-class environment. GHO may appear to behave a bit differently than some might expect at first, due to our filtering policies. So, here's a quick tutorial on using GHO to enrich your classroom.

Launch Hangouts

The easiest way to launch GHO is to type to open it directly. You might instead choose to go to the "waffle menu" in the upper right near your profile picture. If you don't see the Hangouts icon on the first screen (below left) click More at the bottom of the panel and check the next screen (below right). If it's still not there, click Even more from Google.

Start a video call 

Here's the first hurdle - when you start up you'll see "unable to sign in." IGNORE THIS - you can see your profile picture so you really ARE signed in - I don't know why this occurs but just ignore it and click the blue  Start Video Call  button.

Invite participants

Hangouts will load for a bit, then you'll see that you've started a Hangout that is restricted to "Community Unit School District #205 only..." But don't despair! Click the blue Change link to    Allow  people outside to join the Hangout!

Next, you can either type in an email address directly and click the green  Invite  button, or copy the link and email it to the other user(s) who will participate in the Hangout.

Going further 

This 5-minute video from The Google Gooru (now associated with BetterCloud Monitor) shows the basics of How to use Google Hangouts.

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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