Thursday, December 26, 2013

QR Codes and URL Shorteners: How to Make Web Addresses More Accessible to Your Students

There are times when a teacher wants to share a website with the students, but the URL is way to long to share in class. Other times, the teacher wants to use a Google Doc that students can keep returning to, but the URL is too long for them to remember. Some teachers might want to share their class notes with their students and upload them to Google Drive which produces a long URL. With so much learning going on in the cloud, it is important for teachers to find an easy way to share websites with their students. There are two different edtech tools that educators throughout the country are using to alleviate this challenge: URL Shorteners and QR Codes

URL Shortener

1. The first option is to use a free website that quickly allows you to shorten a URL (website address). There are more than a dozen sites that do this, but three popular sites are:,, and

           a) is a Google app and has two advantages in that it a Google App that is easily accessible 
from your Google account and that  it saves all of the URLs that you shorten and remembers them each time you return. In addition, this app tracks statistics of how many people clicked on your shortened URL.
          b) My personal favorite is because it gives you the ability to customize your shortened URL to something your students can remember more easily. For example, here is the link to a math image online - But if I were teaching my math class and wanted to make it easier for my students to remember this site, I could change it to and that will go to the same site. This custimazation is really important when dealing with students. Go ahead a these links.
           c) does the same thing and it also allows you to create a custom URL. The only minor difference is that it requires to create an account, albeit a free account. This service also allows you to save bookmarks to websites you visit often.

QR Codes

Over the last few years, QR codes (Quick Response Codes) have become a popular way to share websites with students. Many presenters at educational conferences are using QR codes to share their slides and notes. QRcodes are similar to bar codes in that they contain information and can be scanned. They are an image that looks like the image below and when you capture it, your device goes automatically to the desired website. 
There are free websites that create these QR codes for you. A popular one is called QR Stuff ( and all you do is go to the site and paste in the URL that you want the students to get to and this image is created. The next step is to put this image on the board, email it to the students, or even add it to a paper handout. Then with their smart phones or tablets, they can use a simple app to capture this QR code and be taken automatically to the website you provided. For example, if a math teacher wanted to send his students to specific video on Kahn Academy, let's say on "Using a protractor." Instead of walking the students through going to the site and 4-5 clicks to find that video, the teacher can go to the site, find the video and copy and paste the URL into the website, which produces this:
Once the the QR code is created, you post this on the smartboard and then your students can capture the image with a smartphone or tablet. 

There are many free apps to capture QRcodes, but these are the ones I would recommend:

a) From an iPad or iPhone - download an app called Qrafter - this app uses the ipad camera and when you focus in on the QR code, it captures the image, saves the URL and asks you what you want to do with that URL. You can choose to "Go To" the website, send it in an email, send it by text message, etc. The app stores all of your previously scanned URLs so you can refer back to them in the future.

b) From an Android phone or tablet - download an app called QR Droid - this app will also utilize the camera to capture the image, but it will then take you directly to the website.

c) You can even use QRcodes if your students do not have smartphones or tablets. From a computer with Google Chrome, you can download an extension called QRreader Beta. This allows you to right click on the QR code, select "read QR code from image," and you will be sent to the desired URL.

** With Google Chrome, you can add an extension that does both of these things, shortens URLs and creates QR codes. CLICK HERE to add URL shortener to your Chrome Browser. Now all you have to do is go to the website you want, click on the icon on your browser and you can choose to shroten the URL or to create a QR code. Cool!!

Another cool feature is QrVoice. This allows you to enter up to a 100 character message that when decoded will be read by a synthasized voice. Go to this website and enter your message; it is that easy.

There are so many ways teachers are using QR codes in the classroom. Check out the resources below for real life examples. And remember; always test your QRcodes before sending them to students to make sure they work.

CLICK HERE to watch a video tutorial to learn how to use these tools

Other Resources
1. QR Codes in Education - created by Steven Anderson
2. Cybraryman's QRcode Resources
3. Using QR Codes in the Classroom - (great presentation) -
4. The Magic of QR Codes in the Classroom - TED Talks Video
5. 44 QR Codes Resources for Teaching and Learning
6. Teachers Guide on the The Use of QRcodes in the Classroom
7. Math QR Codes
8. 10 URL Shorteners Websites to Hide URLS

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Google Apps for Education Part 4 - Google Drive Web vs. Google Drive Desktop

In the first part of the Google Apps series, we made mention of the advantages of using Google Drive and quickly mentioned the Google Drive Desktop feature. Now that HALB staff has been using Google for a few weeks, I wanted to revisit this concept and suggest a workflow option that will make your lives much easier, alleviating the need for flash drives and emailing attachments. To that end, we have automatically installed Google Drive Desktop on each school computer for every staff member. This should make implementing this program a much simpler process.

With the Google Drive Web version which many of you are beginning to use, you have a hard drive in the cloud which will allow you to access your files from any computer with an internet connection. If you were to create a Google Doc, Spreadsheet or Form (discussed in the previous postings) while preparing your class at home, then come into your classroom computer, you could pick up right where you left off and complete the document and edit it as you wish. This alone certainly beats using a flash drive that can get easily corrupted, and keeping track of multiple email attachments. However, if you were to prepare a Smart Notebook File or Powerpoint presentation at home, upload that to Google Drive, when arriving in class you would need to download that file onto your classroom computer to view it properly. Again, that is better than flash drives and email attachments. But lets say you made changes to that file while teaching your class or perhaps you regularly save your class notes and upload them to Haiku for your students, then you would have to re-upload the new file to Google Drive to have the updated filed saved in the cloud. This may be a little tedious for some users.

The solution is Google Drive Desktop. This is a cool feature, where Google Drive is downloaded (CLICK HERE to download) to the hard drive of your computer, but the files are not actually being saved on your hard drive. They appear to be, but are really being saved in the same Google Drive cloud. The difference though is huge. You can open the Google Drive Desktop folder like you would any folder on your computer, drag and drop files into the drive, and most importantly, open the files directly in the program they were created in. For example, you created a Smart Notebook file at home, dragged it into the appropriate Google Drive folder and now you can come to class and open the file from Google Drive Desktop, view and edit the file and it is automatically saved back into the cloud. No need for re-uploading newer files. This may be a little hard to in-vision from my description, so CLICK HERE to watch a screencast that walks you through the process of downloading Google Drive Desktop at home, finding the already installed Google Drive Desktop in class, and then learning how to navigate the drive and save files into it. Not to misunderstand my intent, I am not trying to get rid of the Google Drive web app as the desktop version will only be accessible from your own personal computers and the school network computers. If you want to access files while on the road or from any non-personal computer or mobile device, you will still want to utilize the web app.

The end result is a perfect workflow of creating files at home, walking into any school computer and opening the very same file, edit and adjust as you see fit.

CLICK HERE to watch a screencast that explains how to install, setup and use Google Drive Desktop.
CLICK HERE to watch the original video I created on setting up Google Drive Web and at the end makes quick mention of Google Drive Desktop. 


1. 40 Ways to Start Using Google Apps in the Classroom  
2. Good Online Google Tutorials for Teachers
3. A Case Study: Using Google Drive in the Classroom
4. 12 Roles for Google Drive in the Classroom
5. Google Drive and Docs Tips: 20 Expert Tricks and Shortcuts

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Google Apps for Education Part 3 - Google Forms

Google Forms is a great tool to gather all types of information from students. This is a Google App that does not have a corresponding Microsoft product. Essentially, Google Forms is software that allows you to easily create a form, have people fill it out, and then the data is sent directly to a Google Spreadsheet (like Excel). Our school has used this in administrative ways as well as an assessment tool in the classroom. As a school, we have had high school students register for elective classes, put in lunch requests for a trip, register for our Open House, etc. The possibilities are endless; just think of a situation where you want to gather information from a lot of people and this is a great option.

Teachers can use this tool in different ways. You can send a form to your students the day before school as a "get to know you" activity so you can come into class the first day with some information about your students. You can give entire homework assignments with short answer, multiple choice, true/false and matching questions. You can flip your classroom and give the students a video to watch and hold them responsible for the content by requiring them to answer a few questions on the video. The best part of all is that all the information goes into one simple spreadsheet.

If you want to get a little fancier, a few months ago Google Forms began allowing you to embed a youtube video within a form. So now you can create a video and have it along with the homework questions all within the same link. CLICK HERE to see an example I recently did in my 12th grade class. See below for a few examples of how other teachers have used Google Forms in their classroom.

How will you know if someone filled out a form? Either you can check your Google Drive file every day, or you can turn on notifications and get an email any time the form is filled out. To set this up, go into the backend Google Spreadsheet that is created (see videos below), go to tools, Notification rules, and choose how and when you want to be notified.

To learn how to create Google Forms, watch the two videos below:

Examples of other teachers using Google Forms
1.  Student Reading Log
2. Sample Form to Track an Assignment
3. 80 + Google Forms for the Classroom
4. 74 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom

Other Resources
1. 6 Things You Might Not Have Know You can Do in Google Forms
          a. Youtube video
          b. Print Version
2. Webinar on Advanced Forms
3. Innovative Ideas for Using Google Forms
4.  80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom
5. How to Use Google Forms to make self-grading quizzes

Links to Previous Videos
1. How to Create a Screencast
2. How to Create a Screencast from an iPad
3. Introduction to Gmail (by Aaron Fleksher)
4. Google Calendar (by Aaron Fleksher)
5. Google Drive #1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Living in the Clouds: Google Apps for Education Part 2

HALB has successfully migrated to Google and we are getting comfortable with the Gmail platform for email, many of us are enjoying the features of Google Calendar, and we have even begun to learn about Chrome extensions. (I hope to write more about this in the future). In my previous posting, I talked about Google Drive and the concept of saving our work in the cloud. As I walk the halls of our campuses, I am beginning to hear people talk about Google Drive and sharing and collaborating with each other on the Drive. In this posting, I want to talk about three Google Apps: Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations.

Google Docs is Google's web version of Microsoft Word, Google Spreadsheets is Google's web version of Microsoft Excel, and Presentation is Google's version of Microsoft Powerpoint. What this means is that you can enjoy the benefits of these programs without having to save your work on your hard drive. You can create a Google (Word) Doc in the cloud while on a school computer, then pick up where you left off on your home computer, tablet or smartphone. Similarly, you can create a spreadsheet on Spreadsheets or a slideshow on Presentation and open in on any computer in the world with internet access. No more need for emailing attachments or carrying around flash drives that can get corrupted. You simply save it in on your Google Drive and it is there whenever you want it.

But more important than the accessibility, is the collaborative features of Google Apps. You can create a Doc and share it with your colleagues or students. This allows them to open the same document (even at the very same moment) and work on it with you. If you have to create a spreadsheet and then share it with colleagues, now you can do that in a way they can make changes to the very same document. Do you want your students to produce creative Powerpoint Presentations? Now they can work on a project together even while they are each in their own homes. They simply login to Drive, share the presentation with each other and they are instantly working on the same presentation at the same time.

Another great reason to use Google Apps is that the software is universal, it is web based and accessible to everyone. Now PC users and Mac users do not have to worry about having compatible software. They can each login to Google Drive and utilize these apps from any type of computer, tablet or smart phone. In fact, after purchasing a Macbook a few months ago, I have yet to purchase any software simply because most of the day to day tasks can be done on Google Apps.

To be honest, I am not trying to rid the world of Microsoft Office programs. The Google Apps are not as robust and do not have all of the special Microsoft features. But I challenge you to move to Google Apps for a month and show me what these apps are missing. I would bet most of you will be able to work with Google Apps without missing a beat. Go for it and prove me wrong.

Here are three Screen casts that walk you through these Apps:

1. Google Docs Part 1: Creating and Collaborating
2. Google Docs Part 2: More on Collaborating and Sharing
3. Google Sheets and Presentations

1. Google Apps User Guides
2. Google Docs in the Classroom - Simple as ABC
3. Table of Contents in a Google Doc
4. 12 Roles for Google Drive in the Classroom
5. Everything Teachers Need to Know about Google Spreadsheets
6. 15 Great Google Tutorials for Teachers

Links to Previous Videos
1. How to Create a Screencast
2. How to Create a Screencast from an iPad
3. Introduction to Gmail (by Aaron Fleksher)
4. Google Calendar (by Aaron Fleksher)
5. Google Drive #1

Monday, November 11, 2013

Living in the Cloud: Google Apps for Education - Part 1

It used to be a disparaging comment if someone accused you of "living in the clouds," but today it is considered best practice to do so. What does it mean to "live in the cloud?" Essentially, it means that instead of storing your digital files on your physical computer (hard drive), you are saving them up in cyberspace. One of the most popular cloud based storage services is Google Drive. Every Google/Gmail user has a free account with Google Drive, where you can upload and store all of your files. In addition, there is a collection of apps that you can use in place of Microsoft Word or Excel. These are called Google Docs and Google Sheets. Although there are several other cloud based services (Dropbox being another popular one) that can accomplish the same thing, we will focus on Google as HALB has recently turned into a Google Apps for Education School.

Why would you want to "live in the cloud?"
         a. You can access your files from anywhere in the world with a computer with internet connection.
         b. You can share and collaborate with other people on docs, forms, and the like.
         c. Your work is saved automatically. (No more "save" button.). If your computer dies, your files do not die with it.
         d.  It is Free
         e. No mores email attachments, no more flash drives

The screencast below will walk you through the steps of setting up your Drive, organizing it with folders and subfolders, and how to upload your files to the drive. Look at it this way. You no longer need to save files on your actual computer, just upload them to Google Drive and then access the files from any computer anywhere.

But it gets one step better. Google Drive has a desktop platform so that you can install it on your home computer and on your classroom computer (you might need IT help to do this in school). Then you can create a file (Word, Notebook Software, Powerpoint, etc.) at home and it automatically appears in your classroom computer. No need for flash drives that can get lost or corrupted and no need for emailing yourself the attachments.

CLICK HERE to watch a video that will walk you through this process.

Here are some other Google resources that might be helpful for you.

1. In my networking with other educators throughout the country, I came across an educator by the name of Alice Keeler. (Follow her on Twitter @alicekeeler). She is a Google expert and has a great website with "How to" videos and blog postings that talk about everything Google. This is her website

2. Tech for Teachers - more videos on using Google Drive -

3. For those of you who do better with written directions, here is a link to the Google website where they outline all of the features and the "how to" with Google Drive.

Links to Previous Videos
1. How to Create a Screencast
2. How to Create a Screencast from an iPad

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flipping the Classroom Part Two - Is there any downside to Flipping?

In my last post, I outline all the good reasons to consider flipping your classroom. The main objective would be to remove some of the rote lecture from the classroom and allow students to experience that at home at their own pace, leaving class time for more one on one interaction and differentiated instruction. But is there any downside to flipping? Personally, I do not believe there is and I would like to discuss the arguments against flipping and then perhaps rebut those arguments.

#1 - Does Flipping Increase Homework Time? - If every teacher were to assign a 5-7 minute video every night, that would be a problem no matter where you fall on the homework spectrum. I am not advocating that everyone flip all the time. But it would be great if we were to each flip our classroom once or twice a week. Doing this would give the students a 10 minute homework assignment,  which would not add any extra homework burden. It is simply reshaping the homework from  classical pen and paper questions to watching a video to prepare for the next lesson.

#2 - Flipping Assumes Every Student Has Internet at Home - thankfully, in our school setting, this is an assumption we can make. However, in some low income neighborhoods, this could potentially be a roadblock to flipping. However, many teachers have found ways around this by creating the screencasts and downloading them onto a cd to send home with the students. In other schools, students are given the chance to watch the videos first thing in the morning before going to class.

#3 - Videos Are One Size Fits All - will my videos attract all kinds of learners?  In my experience, the more effective screencasts are ones where they are simple and straight forward enough that you can go figure out my?

#4 - Will the student have the motivation to work through the material? Most research says yes. The combination of students going at their own pace combined with the student being able to rewind the teacher has led to amazing results.

#5 - Will the student have engaged with the material deeply, or superficially? Again, this will depend on the student and the teacher's presentation. Typically, keeping a video down to 5-8 minutes will allow many more of us to upload at one time.

In closing, If you are intimidated to flip, then learn screencasting to create a review of a lesson. Take your time to be convinced of the methodology, but in the meantime start creating screencasts from your PC or iPad.

Creating a Screencast on an iPad

Useful Links
1. Key Questions You Should Ask Before You Flip Your Class
7. 6 Steps to a Flipped Classroom
8. 30 Flipped Learning Tools From Edshelf

9. Reach Every Student Every Day - Great Resource from @mariealcock
         Part 1- Flip 101
         Part 2 - Flip 201


Friday, October 11, 2013

Welcome to Technology for Learning - Flipped Classroom Part 1

Welcome to Technology for Learning! This is a new blog primarily aimed at the faculty of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, but is open to anyone looking to promote Edtech for Learning. The goal of this blog will be threefold:
1. An open conversation/evaluation of some edtech tool or educational pedagogy.
2. A screen-cast or video to demonstrate how to use the tool/ pedagogy.
3.  Posting of a few links to further research the topic being discussed.

Follow me on Twitter @jffrothman to become part of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and feel free to email me at

Flipped Classroom Part One

The concept of the Flipped classroom dates back as early as the 1990's, but has gained popularity in the last few years. (See Wikipedia's history). I normally hesitate getting on the band wagon of popular fads, but I do not think that the Flipped Classroom is a fad that will be going away anytime soon. Ever since the publishing of Sams and Bergmann's Book, "Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day," and the explosion of Khan Academy, the movement has kept gaining steam, and most importantly it has gained the backing of educators who are looking to improve the learning that goes on in their classrooms. In fact, what makes the Sams and Bergmann approach so compelling is that it comes from two high school chemistry teachers. 

The basic idea is that teachers record and post video lectures in lieu of lecturing in class. Students view the lectures at home (younger grades this could be in school as well), having the ability to stop, rewind and re-watch videos until they understand the information. The goal is to remove the rote lecture from class time, allowing students the opportunity to learn that at their own pace, leaving class time for more individualized instruction, one on one time for the teacher and the student, and more time to focus on higher order skills. The basic question you have to ask yourself, is what is the best way to spend the precious face to face time that you have with your students?

Here are the 12 advantages Sams and Bergmann suggest for promoting  the flipped classroom model:


1.  More efficient use of class time. Teachers remove the rote lecture from the classroom and have the students spend time at home learning that information. Moreover, teachers reflect on the content and can deliver a 5-10 minute video that could have taken 30 minutes of class time.

2.  Class time is spent on applying the information from the videos.

3.  This allows every student the ability to do his homework without getting stuck on problems he doesn’t know how to complete.

4.  Increase of student-teacher interaction. Flipping allows the teacher to spend more time in class working one-on-one with the students who require extra help. This improves teacher relationships with the students and provides for a more personalized learning experience. This also allows for differentiated instruction.

5.  Encourages teacher collaboration. They discuss and what worked and what did not work with the videos so they can perfect the process.

6. Parent involvement increases as they have access to what and how the teacher is teaching in class. They can watch the videos to help their child with comprehension.

7.  Research shows that teachers who use the Flipped Classroom model report that job satisfaction, quality of education, parent relationship and instructional skill improved.

8.  Flipping speaks the student’s language. They have grown up on technology.

9.  Flipping can be done in all class levels.

10.  Flipping increases student-student interaction. Students who have mastered the content can help others.

11.  Research shows that flipping reduces classroom management issues. This is primarily due to the fact that students are more engaged when using technology.

12.  Flipping allows for students to learn even on days when a teacher is absent.  

Next week, we will further the conversation about the Flipped Classroom, discussing some best practices in implementation and look at some of the challenges that one might encounter in flipping. 

Whether you are sold on the pedagogy or not, learning to create screencasts is an invaluable tool that you can use in so many ways to further the learning in your classroom. If you aren't convinced that you want students watching videos before class, then how about learning this tool so you can make quick "Week in Review" screencast or a review of your reading and translating a text so your students can "take you home" with them.

CLICK HERE to watch a video about how to create a screencast.