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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

SchoolCircle - Organize Your Communication to Parents

SchoolCircle is a free service that is designed to help elementary school teachers organize communication to the parents of their students. SchoolCircle offers many of the features of Google+ Communities without the need for parents to join Google+.

Through SchoolCircle you can create an online community for parents of students in your classroom. You can use SchoolCircle to send messages, organize tasks for parent-volunteers, and post updates about things happening in your classroom and in your school. Parents don't have to sign into SchoolCircle everyday because you can choose to send a daily digest of updates to their email addresses.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a way to streamline your communication to parents, SchoolCircle might be what you need. It provides a solution that is a little more robust than email contact lists while not being so complex that it will take you or your students' parents a long time to learn how to use. My one wish for SchoolCircle is that they develop an option for sending text messages to parents.

Turn a Set of Spreadsheet Cells Into Easy to Read Documents

Save As Doc is a free Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables you to select a series of adjacent cells and turn them into an easy to read Google Document. The Save As Doc Add-on takes just a minute to install. Once installed select the Add-on from your "Add-on's" drop-down menu and click "start." After clicking "start" you can choose a set of cells or all cells to be converted into a Google Document. The document will appear in your Google Drive dashboard (it might take a minute or two to appear if you have selected a large set of cells) where you can then view it, edit it, or download it as a PDF.

Applications for Education
I love to use Google Forms to create and deliver quizzes to students. The problem with that has always been that when I start to add-in short answer or essay questions, the spreadsheet of responses becomes unwieldy and difficult to read. Save As Doc can solve that problem for me by allowing me to select the cells containing my students' short answer responses to turn into a document that I can easily print, read, and grade.

I will be covering topics like this one and many others in my new class Getting Ready for GAFE starting in October. Graduate credit is now available for this class!

Where Have My Google Spreadsheet Scripts Gone? They're Add-ons or...

Over the last couple of weeks I have received a bunch of emails from readers who were looking for Google Spreadsheet scripts that they used last year, but cannot find this year. The reason for this is that when Google pushed out the updated Spreadsheets to all Google Apps for Edu domains the script gallery was removed from the "insert" menu in Google Spreadsheets. A few of those scripts are now available as Add-ons, but most are not.

Scripts were developed by third party developers. If the developer did not re-write the script to be an Add-on, the script is gone. The work around is if you have an old spreadsheet that has not been updated to the new version of Google Spreadsheets, you may be able to make a copy of that spreadsheet and continue to use the old script. New Visions for Public Schools provides directions for this process in this explanation of how to continue to use the FormLimiter script.

Pixlr - A Great Photo Editing Service Comes to Mac and Windows Desktops

Pixlr is a great set of online and mobile image editing tools. I've featured Pixlr a bunch of times over the years. This week Pixlr became available as a desktop app for Mac and Windows. The free Pixlr desktop apps allow you to do all of the things that you can do in the browser. If you want even more features you can subscribe to the pro version of Pixlr for $1.99.

The free version of Pixlr is more than adequate for the vast majority of classrooms. The free version allows you to crop images, layer images, sharpen images, add contrasts and filters, and resize images for use in a variety of other applications. One of the features of Pixlr that I like is the blur function that you can use to draw attention to a portion of an image. The video below demonstrates how the blur function works.


Make someone or something the center of attention with focal blur from Pixlr on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
The Pixlr desktop apps for Windows and Mac could be a good option for schools in which bandwidth is limited. By putting the apps on the desktop instead of relying on the cloud, your students won't experience the frustration of waiting for an image or image edit to load.

H/T to The Next Web.

Hip Hughes History Explains the Grange Movement in Three Minutes

Take a drive around western Maine or many other rural parts of the United States and you're still likely to come across a Grange hall. My students' lightbulbs always went on whenever I got to the Grange Movement in my US History course because they then understood why there are Grange halls dotting the areas they live in.

Keith Hughes has a good video about the Grange Movement that is short enough and engaging enough to be good for building a flipped lesson.