Cool Tools, Thing 26: Note-Taking Tools


I heard about Google Keep awhile ago and loved the idea of virtual post-it notes instead of physical ones I could lose or misplace. I loved that it synced across all my devices so that I always had the notes no matter where I was. I try to keep it open in a window on the circulation desk computer and my office computer so I can jot down quick notes for myself whenever I need them. However, after over a year of semi-frequent use, I had no idea that I’d barely been scratching the surface of what this tool can do!

While working on the Bitmoji lesson I came across a tutorial on how to save my Bitmojis in Google Keep so I can use them to make comments on student work in Docs. As part of the demonstration, the woman added a label to her note and I was like, “Wait, what?!?! I can do that?!?!”. I couldn’t wait to find out what else I had been missing out on in Google Keep and as it turns out, it was quite a lot!

What I’d Been Missing:

  • Reminders-Do you know you can set reminders for your Keep notes? I sure didn’t. And not just standard pop-up reminders. You can set GPS based reminders-are you letting that sink in? YOU CAN HAVE REMINDERS POP UP AS SOON AS YOU GET TO A TARGET DESTINATION! Maybe it’s my hour-long commute (it does give me plenty of time to forget about things), but I feel like I’m constantly forgetting to do the things I said I needed to do when I got to my destination. Thanks to Google Keep, that might soon be a thing of the past!
  • Not Just for Typing-While I knew I could take pictures and add them as notes to Keep, I had no idea you could draw a note!
  • Stop, Collaborate & Listen-I had no idea you can share notes with others and collaborate with them. This will be especially helpful now that I have a clerk one day a week! Instead of leaving me actual post-it notes (no more losing them or forgetting them at work), I can show her how to use Keep to share them with me. And I can keep her updated on things by sharing notes I take while I’m at the circulation desk by sharing notes with her! So much happens on the days she’s at our other buildings and so much happens on that one day I have her with me I feel like I’m constantly forgetting to tell her things she needs to know but maybe this will help with that and make our time together more efficient.
  • Put a Pin in It-While I’m familiar with pinning tabs I hadn’t realized that I could Pin Keep notes to keep them from getting pushed to the bottom of the screen and lost. Very handy for organization.
  • Better Bookmarking-I also hadn’t realized that I could save websites and articles from the web as Keep notes. I love this one! My bookmarks are a complete disaster and desperately need to be cleaned up and weeded. Part of the problem is that sometimes, while I need to remember something for later, it’s a temporary need. When the project is complete, the bookmarked content isn’t important anymore. But, I never remember to go in and remove the bookmark. I just keep adding to them and like I said, it’s kind of a mess in there. But, for things I know I only need for certain projects and probably won’t care to revisit them once the project is done, I can save them as Keep notes instead of regular bookmarks.
  • Using with Docs-I had never noticed that when you are in Docs there was an option to open Google Keep (I always just ignored that Google Keep pop-up that appeared when I opened a new Doc or Slide-bad librarian). I also had no idea I can send my notes to a Doc when they start to get too long.


Student Use:

While we aren’t a 1:1 school we do have a class set of Chromebooks in the library and our upper elementary teachers are supposed to be getting about 6 for each of their classes so I think Keep will be very useful to teach my students and teachers. I think that Google Keep’s ability to seamlessly connect with Docs and Slides could be a game changer for teaching students how to take notes and incorporate their notes into their final work. Instead of taking notes on index cards like we did “back in the day”, students could use Keep for note taking. They could use labels to record the source of the note and even color coding to keep track of the types of sources they have used in their research. Then, when they switch over to Docs, they can pull up their notes right on the same screen. The drag and drop aspect will make including their notes and direct quotes so much more efficient as well. Not to mention no more worries about forgetting or losing their graphic organizers! 

I can’t believe I had been missing out on all these great features (although now that I think about it, I also can’t believe I thought Google would make something that was literally just a digital post-it and nothing more). I’m so excited to step up my organization game and start (finally!) using this tool to it’s fullest.


Cool Tools, Thing 16: Bitmoji Fun

I love my Bitmojis! I use the chrome extension to add them to my emails, I Snapchat, and text with them. I’ve had entire conversations with friends and co-workers using nothing but Bitmoji but I’ve never thought of using them in school. Which, now that I think about it, is crazy! We were faithful users of Bitstrips for Education before it disappeared and the kids always loved it. How hadn’t I thought about using Bitmojis in school before this?!?!?

Besides all the cool ideas I learned about (more about them in a bit), one of the major things I learned is that you can use Google Draw to edit your Bitmojis! And not just adding text next to them-you can change your Bitmojis t-shirt logo, change the text of things they are holding etc. Fresh off my Google Draw exploration, I found this particularly exciting and couldn’t wait to try out my new Draw skills.

Here is one I tried editing in Google Draw:

Not too bad of a final result and it didn’t take that long either. I can see this becoming a regular habit.

Ideas Starburst

  • Virtual Stickers-I love the idea of turning your Bitmojis into virtual stickers for providing feedback in GAFE! I can’t wait to surprise my 5th graders this week with some extra personalized feedback when they start working on their Planet Slides!
  • Real Stickers-Since I work in an elementary school, I also love the idea of turning the Bitmojis into actual stickers! I’ve already ordered some label sheets from Amazon and they’re supposed to be delivered on Monday. I think I might actually be excited for break to end and to go back to work Monday! I used Google Draw to make up this little sticker I can use as a book reminder. I left the space at the bottom to jot the book(s) name(s) and I’m eager to see if it helps more than printing the name of the book out for them (I have a feeling those pieces of paper get lost long before they have a chance to get home).

Don't Forget Your Library Book

  • Booksnaps-We’re having a bit of a social media policy makeover at my school right not so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get away with a library Snapchat account but, I do think I might get my library’s Instagram account approved for continued use. So, maybe I could use Instastories to share booksnaps! I also like the idea of extending that “snap and react” setup to other platforms we already use in school like Seesaw or even uploading the images into Google Slides or Keep for a digital reaction journal (with or without Bitmojis it could be a fun idea).  
  • Updated Book Review Board-Another idea I can’t wait to kick into gear when we get back to school: revamping our emoji book review wall! (Side note: another example of “Why did it take me so long to realize you can use Bitmojis at school?!?!?!”). Last year I found these emoji book review sheets and I put them on the tables for kids to complete and hand in during open book exchange time. Then, I made a bulletin board that says “Books make us feel so…” and under those words are giant emoji faces with the name of the emotion under them (happy, sad, surprised etc). Completed book reviews get hung on the board under the appropriate emoji face. As part of that, I have a wall with a flip chart where I keep track of how many books I’ve read during the school year and when I finish a book, a put a copy of its cover on the wall with an emoji face to represent how I felt about the book. Now, I’m thinking I could add my Bitmojis to the book reviews and the bulletin board to help personalize it even more! Here are some pictures I have of it from the first month we started the book reviews: 
  • Bookmarks-I’d also like to try making my own Bitmoji bookmarks promoting reading. Maybe have the kids make their own as an end of the year, get ready for summer reading project?

I know some people might question the validity of using Bitmojis in school, calling it silly or a time waster. However, I think if you’re looking to connect with students and get them to pay attention to the things you want them to pay attention to, you have to make an effort to meet them where they are and share their interests with them. And once you use something like this to get their attention and start the conversations, who knows where it can go from there?

Cool Tools, Thing 43: Google Drawings

Google Draw Image
Look! I made one!!!

I have tinkered with Google Draw in the past but always got frustrated and gave up on it before I’d actually finished anything. My frustrations seemed to be twofold: I could never seem to get the sizing right and, to be honest, I didn’t really get the point of Google Draw. So much of what you could do in Draw seemed the same as what you could already do in Docs and Slides, only it took way more effort to get the job done. So, when I saw Google Draw listed as a Cool Tools Thing this year, I decided it was finally time to actually try to learn how to use this Google feature once and for all (after all, if anyone was going to help me figure out Google Draw, it was going to be Polly and all the amazing resources she always pulls together!).

What I learned lightbulb

Right off the bat, my confidence that I might actually finally figure this tool out was bolstered when I saw all the cheat sheets and summary documents that could be found in the resources. I immediately set up a Drive folder for Google Draw and started copying those in there for future reference. The cheat sheet shared by Shake Up Learning looks particularly useful. Not only will it help me while I develop my Google Draw skills, I think it will be a great tool to help me outline my lessons when I feel confident enough to teach this to others!

After reviewing some of the instruction documents I gave making an image or two a try. Honestly, I can’t figure out what my problem was before! I’m not sure if it was the well-written explanation sheets or just the sheer number of them I looked at, but Google Draw seemed so easy to use this time! I did have some trouble getting some of my image elements to group together which, while frustrating, didn’t seem quite so insurmountable a challenge as it would have in the past. I think one of my biggest issues in prior attempts was not realizing that you can adjust the size of the Draw space and thus, adjust your final image size. Of course, I also didn’t try making anything overly complicated this time so perhaps I have more frustrations ahead of me but, I also now know where to a host of tips, tricks, and how-to resources so I feel much more confident I’ll actually be able to work through those future challenges!

Now as far as not really getting what you would use Draw for, let’s just say that after pouring over all the ideas and resources, I’m starting to get a clearer picture. I’m very excited to have found all these amazing templates for Google Draw projects and ideas. I feel so much more likely to use Draw in my classes now that I know I don’t have to create everything from scratch! It’s very encouraging to know I have that I have back up options if trying to make something on my own proves to be too overwhelming.  


What I tried clipboard

Not only did I try making some graphics and images in Google Draw myself, I tried out Autodraw for the first time. I had never heard of this before and I LOVE THIS OPTION!!! It was so cool to take my shaky little doodle and be able to quickly and easily turn it into something that looked good! I love the idea of using Autodraw to make your own icons to jazz up projects, websites, blog posts etc. I think students might like the idea of making their own images for projects when they can’t find what they want using sites like Creative Commons.


Ideas Starburst

Thinglink alternative-I’ve used Thinglink in the past with classes and I love the idea of being able to make a similar style project without stepping out of our GAFE setup. I have quite a few teachers who have really started to embrace Google Classroom this year so I think they’ll like projects like this as well!

  • SmartNotebook Alternative-I’ll admit that I haven’t made my own SmartNotebook activity to use with a class since I was in grad school. I don’t even use my SmartBoard that often unless we’re watching an instructional video or practicing new computer skills together with it. I love the idea of using the templates to create charts and labeling activities and being able to demonstrate and do guided practice together on the smartboard before sending them to the computers to complete similar style activities in Google Classroom (I LOVE that you can use Google Classroom to share a copy with each student just like I do with slides and docs!!!).   
  • Teaching Basic Computer Skills-I think it would be so much more productive and fruitful to teach my younger students basic computer skills like copying and pasting with the Tanagrams and the Snowman activities. They’ll think they’re playing a game but I’ll actually be teaching them things they need to know in a way they won’t quickly forget-I love when you can disguise learning as a game!
  • Poster Contests-Our school is a PBIS school and a Leader in Me school. I think it could be fun to have students design posters about the 7 habits and/or the school expectations in Google Draw. We could even have teachers or students (or school board members!) judge them and have the printing center create them in poster size to hang around the school and in classrooms. 
  • Replacement for Bitstrips-My teachers loved Bitstrips for making comics with their classes and we have yet to find an alternative that everyone loves as much. But, maybe Google Draw could finally be the one!
  • Hyperlink doc for resources lists-I’ve been wanting to put together some resource lists for teachers and since the library website is now a Google Site, using Google Draw to create hyperlink documents could be a perfect solution. I like knowing that I’d be able to embed them right into my site…more on this when I tackle Thing 20.

It feels so good to finally get this tool! And it’s nice to add to my repertoire of tools and projects I can suggest to teachers when we collaborate on projects together. Even if the teachers decide to go with a project we’ve done in the past, I like feeling like I’m still growing, learning and bringing options to the table. And man, oh man, does Google Draw bring some new options to the table!

Update: I got another idea!!! I was thinking about the Build a Snowman activity and was trying to come up with less seasonally based ideas I could do when I remembered seeing a book called I’m NOT just a Scribble posted on a few teachers Instagrams this week. The book comes with stickers in the back so kids can make their own scribble and I thought, “Why can’t we do a digital version of this?”. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking we could read the story during one class, then during another class, we could create scribbles on our computers and use a similar setup to copy and paste eyes, mouths, arms. legs etc to our scribbles. Then in subsequent classes, we could write about our scribble and type up our final writing pieces back on the computer, like in the snowman template!



Cool Tools, Thing 37: Green Screen Fun


Just trying to pretend I was at the Olympics…

Since our Boces SLS director (hi Molly!) purchased a “green screen in a backpack” kit this year I thought this would be a fun topic to try out.

The first takeaway I gathered from the readings was that this whole green screen thing isn’t nearly as complicated and technical as I thought it would be-or maybe I should say, it doesn’t have to be super complicated and technical. Either way, it was a great realization!

Another great realization? The WeVideo account I have through my school district supports the green screen features mentioned in the readings! When I logged in to check if I had the green screen features, I noticed that my account is set to expire in August. With that in mind, I decided that in addition to trying to make a quick green screen video with WeVideo I should also try out DoInk, just in case the district doesn’t renew my WeVideo account.

My attempt at making it look like I lived in a painting didn’t quite work out because I had to crop the shot so close and it ended up looking like I just took a selfie in front of the painting…

Some things I learned during my quick experiments:

  • Lighting is waaayyyy more important than I realized. One of the videos I watched while exploring this tool was about the common mistakes made making green screen videos and how to avoid and/or fix them. Most of the issues (and their fixes) were a bit beyond my current level of green screen experience but, one thing I did take away from the video was how important lighting can be to your video creation. In fact, my first attempt went much the same way as one of the video examples! In my attempt to get rid of shadows on the wall behind me, I caused the green to read as lighter than it was and when I went to remove it in the WeVideo editor, my face and parts of my scarf and hat disappeared too! Which leads me to my next big realization…
  • Clothing can be tricky! I knew you can’t wear the same color top as the screen you’re recording against. However, I didn’t realize that similar colors could be a problem or that colors could be made to appear to the same on camera, depending on the lighting used. Going back to my first attempt in WeVideo, the scarf I wore had no green it at all. It was red, yellow and black so I thought it would perfect for my winter background. However, when the bright lighting overpowered my green screen and made it look lighter, it also washed out the yellow and white in my scarf and made them look close enough to the wall color that the editing program removed them as well as the background.  
  • Finding copyright friendly background images can be a real pain! I’m not sure why this surprised me as much as it did-we’ve all experienced this when helping students try to find images for a project. I made my video first then tried to find a background image to go with it which, in hindsight, was not the best planning. I ended up just turning it into an image instead. I would definitely make sure that part of the planning process for my students (and my future green screen projects) includes locating any wanted background images before recording the green screen video so changes can be made before filming!
  • Bigger green screen=better results. None of the green walls in my house ended up working very well as green screen backgrounds and I couldn’t find a green tablecloth at the corner store in town so I had to settle for a piece of posterboard that was the right shade of green. I thought the posterboard would be big enough but in the end, to make it work, I had to just do head and neck shots which takes some of the impact and wow factor out of the green screen videos and pictures.
  •  Don’t forget to hold your phone sideways! I held my phone vertically and when I transferred my videos into the editing programs I had blank spots on the sides which meant I had to adjust the position of the images in the editing process which was a pain in the you know what and ultimately, still not that convincing to look at because of the hard lines on the sides of my face. I tried to reshoot the videos with my phone horizontal instead but, because my green screen background wasn’t that big, I had to get even closer to my face than before and I lost a lot of the background (saying it again: bigger is better when it comes to green screen fun!).
Click on the picture of these doofuses to see the green screen movie they helped me make…

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas!

Some ideas I’m very excited about exploring with classes include:

  • 2nd Grade-Post Thanksgiving, my2nd-gradee teachers have done a reindeer research project for the last several years. After learning about ChatterPixs at the AASL conference in Columbus, we’ve been using that for their final project. I think it could be fun to replace that project with green screen reports on their reindeer. Maybe we could even make it cross-curricular and have the art teacher help them make paper bag reindeer puppets that could “talk” on camera…
  • 3rd Grade-Instead of doing poster presentations for their country research projects, it would be cool to have our 3rd graders do “live” reports from their countries. Another idea I have for my 3rd graders is creating news reports on Christmas traditions around the world. Finally, I have a 3rd-grade teacher who would love to do more book reports with her class. Using the planning documents from Princeton Day School’s library, we could turn their book reports into green screen book talks!
  • 4th Grade-The Erie Canal is always a big unit for our 4th graders. I like the idea of them creating news reports on the building, and eventual grand opening, of the Erie Canal.
  • 5th Grade-Instead of doing a brochure or Google Slide project on the different biomes, our 5th graders could create nature show style videos reports “live” from different biomes.
  • 6th Grade-I love the idea of having our 6th graders partner up and do interviews with characters from myths! Finding the right image to represent the setting of their myth could be a challenge but in a great, learn something from it, kind of way!

Some other ideas I’m excited to explore:

  • My makerclub kiddos could create their own characters, props, and scripts to create green screen movies.
  • I also like the idea of creating little green screen videos of my own to introduce new lessons/units/concepts in creative and interesting ways.
  • I’ve been trying to get students more interested in reading and writing book reviews so I like the idea of incentivizing it with the student featured book review posters mentioned in this post!
  • Finally, I think to make making green screen videos easier to do, I can envision creating a green screen video makers version of the dress up box! I’m thinking things like scarfs, hats, umbrellas, sunglasses, fake glasses, props etc. Then, we could always have those special extras on hand to create even better, more believable videos!

All in all, this might be the most fun I’ve ever had exploring a Cool Tools topic!I think I’ll try it with my makerclub kiddos first so I can work out some of the kinks before I try it out with classes but overall, I’m very excited to share the fun with my faculty and students!

Cool Tools Thing 38: Makerspaces

Trying out LittleBits

What am I doing?

This year is the third year we’ve had a maker club in our library. I do a club rather than a makerspace because I’m at an elementary school and our schedules don’t work for the usual makerspace, come when you can, work when you have the time, model. The first year, we met once a week at the end of the school day, from 2:50-3:20, and the art teacher was my co-advisor. The second year, we still met at the end of the day from 2:50-3:20 but the art teacher was out on maternity leave and they had cut our library clerks so I didn’t have anyone else to help support the club. It was a little tough to manage because I was also trying out an end of the day library helpers program that year as but, the makerclub group was smaller than the year before so that helped. This year, our building received a grant that is supplying an after school bus several days a week so I decided to try moving our maker club to after school instead (which unfortunately, meant the art teacher was once again unavailable to help). In previous years, I’ve hesitated to try moving the club to after school because I didn’t want transportation to be the issue that kept kids from being able to participate but the after school bus has solved that issue. All of our makerclub supplies have been donated or collected over the last several years. The year before I started the makerclub, I sent an email out to my whole building explaining what I wanted to start and asking them to bring me any supplies they were done with or no longer wanted. Once word spread about the makerclub, people starting bringing me things they thought I would want whenever they went through their rooms but, I still periodically send an email out in the spring-those colleagues that are retiring are usually already starting to clean out their rooms and are happy to help you out! To store it all, I used some leftover supply money to buy some drawered supply carts on wheels. I keep them tucked in an out of the way corner of the library until we need them.


What has been working? What hasn’t?

Some things that I think have worked well for our makerclub are:

  • Applications-Every year that we’ve had the makerclub, I’ve had students fill out an application to join. The applications aren’t terribly long or complicated but they do show me who has enough interest to follow through with the pre-requisites. Plus, the application has a place for them to share their ideas and interests which helps me personalize and guide our year together.
  • Information meetings-Last year I started having information meetings for students interested in joining makerclub. Every day for a whole week, I had a 30 minute, “All about Makerclub” meeting where students could learn what makerclub was, see examples of past projects, hear about my goals and expectations for makerclub are, and ask their questions. The only way to pick up a makerclub application is to attend one of these information meetings.
  • Starting with whole group challenges-I like to start makerclub off every year with several weeks of everyone doing the same project challenges (sometimes as individuals, sometimes as pairs or groups). It gives us time to all flex our creativity and get to know each other. Plus, the added element of competition gets them pumped! We’ve done challenges like trying to build the best catapult out of popsicle sticks, a spoon, and some rubber bands; trying to make a boat that can hold the most quarters out of tin foil and cardboard; making the paper airplane that will fly the furthest; egg drops; homemade ice cream three ways etc.
  • Moving from the end of the school day to after schoolMoving to after school this year allows us to have an hour of club time (twice as much as when we meet at the end of the day!). Besides the obvious benefits of having more time to work on projects and manage the cleanup, having that extra time has also allowed us to have…
  • Post-session wrap discussionsThe challenges and activities themselves can be wonderful learning opportunities but to help facilitate that learning, I’ve always wanted to have wrap up discussions and this year, we finally have the time for them! I like to ask them questions like,  “What worked? What didn’t? If we did this same experiment/project/challenge all over again, what would you do differently? If you could swap out a supply for a different one, what would you swap out and why?” and so on. I find these discussions informative and I hope, the students have been as well.

Some things that haven’t been working well for our club are:

  • Transitioning from the whole group challenges to individual projects-I’ve struggled with this one every year. There are several things that make this difficult every year:
    • Supplies-Even with the students providing me with their ideas for projects, I find it difficult to provide the variety of supplies that will help them try out their ideas and follow their creative whims. I always seem to have almost everything they need but not quite.
    • ToolsI also struggle with figuring out how to safely manage the use of some tools during makerclub as well as what tools are reasonable to let upper elementary age students use with moderate supervision.
    • Motivation– I find that many of my students like the idea of free choice creation time but freeze when presented with that time.
  • Balancing my time-I often struggle with balancing my time helping the students who need ideas and the push to get started with helping the students who have an idea and are working but have hit a snag.
  • Keeping them motivated!-Every year, students seem to lose steam with their projects and want to just abandon them before completing them. I struggle with how to handle this. Part of me thinks this is fine and acceptable. Makerclub is about experimenting and trying and learning. It should be a place they don’t have to worry about grades and getting in trouble for not handing something in. On the other hand, I want them to experience the pride in completing a difficult task and pushing themselves to overcome barriers. I also don’t like seeing supplies wasted on half-finished work since I have little to no budget for makerclub and I have to really work to collect and accumulate the supplies we do have.



What new ideas did you pick up from the readings this week?

I’ve been thinking about what hasn’t been working and how to overcome it a lot this year. So I focused my time and energy on finding ways to bridge the gap between the guided challenges we start with and true, free choice project time-and boy did I find some ideas!

  • Maker Tubs-I love the idea of these pre-assembled challenges! I already know my students love challenges so these would be right up their ally. But, by having lots of them to choose from, they would also be able to experiment with free choice (without being overwhelmed with ALL THE CHOICES). I’ll start keeping an eye out for good deals on clear plastic tubs so I can create some of these tubs overtime and hopefully, have a nice set ready to go for next year. I’m thinking these could be a great training wheel step for the free choice challenges (some kids really, really struggle with not being told what to do each and every step of the way and having everything in one little tub could really help them out). While I wait to gather tubs and put some of these ideas together, I also found these STEM challenge cards on Teachers Pay Teachers I think I might use. I still won’t be gathering all the supplies for them but I think just having the supplies listed might be a helpful step for my group.
  • Challenge Cards-I also like the idea of modifying the maker tub idea slightly and instead of making the actual tubs with everything in them already, making challenge cards based on the maker tub ideas. The students can pick the challenge, find their own supplies, and go!  I’m especially excited about making challenges related to books! I loved the Iggy Peck Architect example in the one video. It reminds me of a session one of my colleagues went to at a conference. The presenter talked about creating steam challenges based off of books (read The Gingerbread Boy, identify the problem, create a solution to the problem etc). I’ve had that idea kicking around in the back of my head for awhile and this would be a way to test it out before I tried it with whole classes at the lower grade levels.
  • Idea CardsI’ve been wanting to create direction cards/sheets for different craft like activities for quite awhile. I have several students this year who have expressed interest in learning how to do things like weave or crochet so this Cool Tool Thing was the perfect push to finally make some basic instructions for those and other fiber arts like string art or basket weaving. Here are the ones I’ve started so far: Maker Club Craft Idea Cards
  • Maker Journals-One of the ideas I saw when I was perusing Pinterest were Maker Journals. I love the ideas of giving the kids a place to record their ideas, make sketches, keep track of what worked, what didn’t etc. I think I might use this one I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. While we do something like this already during our end of class breakdowns I like the idea of adding the journals for a few reasons:
    • End of club whole group breakdown sessions are great when we’ve all been working on the same projects but, journals might be a better option for when everyone has been doing different activities
    • Some students just aren’t comfortable sharing and reflecting in a group setting. Hopefully, the journals would give them space to freely think about their successes and failures

Whew! Putting all these ideas together was A LOT of work (which is probably why I hadn’t gotten around to it yet and was still hitting those some old struggles with my Makerclub) but now that they’re done, I’m so excited and glad I took on this particular Cool Tool Thing! I’m sure the kids will feel more empowered to try things independently and now that I’ve started the process of gathering the ideas keeping it going doesn’t seem quite so hard (isn’t starting always the hardest part!). Plus, those Maker Tubs are practically done for me-just need to pick up some bins and hit the dollar stores for some quick supplies. This year’s Maker Club is going to be the best yet-I can feel it!

Cool Tools, Thing 12: Final Reflection

Spending time on my Cool Tools write-ups definitely got easier once deck weather arrived…

What did you learn?

To say I struggled to get all my tools completed before the deadline this year would be an understatement! A huge issue I ran into was that I didn’t realize that WordPress had been blocked at our school which made it difficult for me to work on my Cool Tools assignments and experimentation/planning before and after work like I normally do (with my 50 minute commute I’m good and decompressed when I finally get home and I find it extremely difficult to motivate myself to work on school stuff again when I walk through the door). But the other hurdle I faced was more internal. The reason it took me so long to realize that WordPress had been blocked was because I only checked in on the weekends to see if they later tools had been updated yet. I had it in my head that I had done this too many times to get anything overly useful out of those early tools. And of course, with 41(!) tools to update and add to, it took a little while for Polly to get to those later tools. So, we were months into the course before I realized I couldn’t work on it like I’d done in the past and I struggled to make the time outside the school day for this project. The kicker for me though was that I ended up doing several of the tools from those earlier lists anyway. I could have started working on this so much earlier and gotten a plan together for working around the WordPress block so much sooner if I hadn’t been so closed minded about my learning needs. So a few general things I learned this year are that being open minded is important and sometimes, going back to the basics can be a powerful and refreshing thing! Speaking more specifically, I learned:

  • A variety of tools to help me and my students screencast (I had no idea there were ways to screencast an iPad that didn’t just involve using a second iPad to record yourself! Game changer for leaving instructional videos when I have subs next year!!)
  • How to reinvigorate my Twitter game (and how to craft a more professional-but still fun-Twitter profile).
  • Oodles and oodles of ideas for trying out Snapchat for my library
  • That the Google Cultural Museum was a thing!
  • More about what works and what doesn’t work for me when it comes to productivity. Which was huge this year because it was the first year without our full time library clerks and I really needed to figure out how to get things done on my own (talk about going back to some basics!)

What’s next?

I’m inspired to try out the following things this summer and this coming school year:

  • Jennifer LaGarde’s 20 day Twitter challenge
  • Adding to my list of Snapchat ideas for the library account
  • Finding more libraries and librarians to follow on Snapchat for inspiration
  • Connecting more with other educators via social media in general-making every week my own personal conference where I get to learn some great ideas from other people
  • Finding and trying a social media planner/calendar. I’ve read about bloggers using them to keep them on track and their content organized across platforms and I’d be interested in seeing if it works for me. I didn’t do as great a job with the library Instagram account this year so I’d like to bolster that again while also developing our new Snapchat account and, keeping myself on track with my personal tweeting goals.
  • Helping my classes make more global connections and produce projects for the larger world next year. Right now I’m thinking about blogging, penpals and Skype in particular (I would love to do a Mystery Skype next year!)
  • Using the screencasting and video tools to create some flip classroom style videos and instructions for next year
    • Finding ways for my students to create some of the instructional ones for me!!!!
  • Convincing the IT department that Google Expeditions is awesome and they should ease up on the internet restrictions so we can try it out next year!

Did you like learning this way?

I’ve always enjoyed online classes and asynchronous learning platforms. Unfortunately, because of the time crunch I put myself in, I didn’t take full advantage of the new platform. I feel bad about that because I’m sure other people were sharing amazing ideas and it completely fits within my above stated goal to connect more often with other educators! I also feel bad because I know Polly works extra hard to make this class amazing and I’m sure it took a ton of work to get the new Canvas learning management platform setup and I didn’t utilize it to its fullest. I guess I could add to my above goals for the coming summer and school year that if I do this class again next year, I’ll actually do it as Polly intended and participate in the discussion boards and make those PLN connections.

As always, I was blown away and humbled by all the work Polly put into this class and finding us the most recent and interesting tools and platforms to explore. Not having clerks this year made for some difficult days and I’m not sure I would have tried half the things or pushed myself nearly as much I did to stretch and grow if I hadn’t been taking this class. So thanks for another great year Polly-sorry you had to spend part of your three day weekend looking at my stuff!

Cool Tools, Thing 11: You Pick!

For my You Pick Cool Tools I thought I’d play Polly and try my hand at rounding up resources on the topic of Snapchat. (I know Polly covered this briefly in the Cool Tool on Photo Fun but I thought I’d try to delve in a little deeper and dig up some more resources for people who like me, are curious about trying it out with their library).

Okay cool! Ummm…what’s Snapchat?

Snapchat is messaging app that lets you send photos and videos that are annotated with text, drawings, and/or stickers or, that have been augmented with filters that superimpose some other imagery over your photos and videos.

Like this:


Or like this:


Or even this:

Alright…but I/my library is already on Twitter and Instagram do I really need Snapchat too?

I hear you! I first heard about Snapchat at my post graduation subbing job at a Jr/Sr High School Library. That was over 5 years ago and yet I just joined this past year. And only after major pressure from my best friend. I didn’t quite see the need for it either and admittedly, I was slow to see the appeal even after joining. But, my friend and my youngest brother kept sending me messages with it and eventually, it grew on me. Now I’d say that Snapchat is one of my most frequently used apps and the main source of communication between myself and my best friend and definitely between myself and my 16 year old brother! There’s something about the videos and photos I send back and forth with them using the app that makes it feel more like it did when I got to see them every day-I feel much more in tune to what’s going on with them in their day to day lives than I ever did when we were just texting or even talking on the phone. And that’s what I think Snapchat can bring our patrons, a sense of connection with our programs that they don’t get from other forms of social media. Facebook is old school, Twitter is succinct, Instagram is highly polished and curated but Snapchat is silly and goofy and fun. It’s time we showed people the lighthearted, fun side of our libraries.

Hold up! Isn’t this the one where messages disappear after you watch them-I’m not putting a bunch work into something that just disappears!

Well, yes. Messages you send others disappear after they’ve been viewed or, in the case of “stories” you post to your account for all to see, they disappear after 24 hours. If you’ve created something you’re particularly proud of you can save it to your account for future use/reuse. And remember what I said about this being for our fun, lighthearted side? Don’t use Snapchat for your important announcements and information-at least not without making sure it’s posted elsewhere too-use if for fun, behind the scenes sneak peeks. And don’t think of the messages being temporary as a bad thing-think of it as adding extra cache to what you share. Like it’s limited edition-people will want to check in so they can be the cool people in the know!

Alright! Are you convinced you want to learn more and maybe try Snapchat with your library? Me too! Let’s look at some of the resources I found to help us get started!

Beginner’s Guides:

Before you jump right in there and start snapping you’re probably going to want to get acquainted with the app, it’s features and some basic vocabulary. Thankfully, there are no shortage of beginner’s guides to Snapchat floating around out there on the internet. Here are some I pulled for those of you who are really new to this app.

Ready to make some Snap Stories?

I freely admit that a few weeks into using Snapchat I thought I was some kind of expert until I tried to figure out Snapchat Stories. Several snaps and texts with my 16 year old brother and I finally figured out what I needed to know. Not everyone has a 16 year old brother who is willing to walk them through these things so here’s guides to help you out.

Here’s some bonus info/fun stuff:

Snapchat and Libraries:

Looking for ideas? Still need to convince yourself or someone else that your library belongs on Snapchat? Check out some of the information and ideas below.

Connect with other Libraries and Librarians on Snapchat:

So, what ideas are you most excited about using in your library? I noticed that most of the ideas I found and linked to focus on older students but I’m in an elementary library. I don’t think that means I can’t use Snapchat, it just means that my audience is most likely going to be parents so I’ll have to adjust my content. But, if Snapchat is about showing an insider’s view what better an audience to try and reach with that insider’s view than the parents and guardians of my students! Afterall, my students see me every week-they know what’s up in the library. It’s the adults at home who often don’t realize that the library is, as my co-worker Molly and like to hashtag it on Instagram, not your grandma’s library anymore. I think it could be cool to try things like:

  • Quick samples of what each grade level/class will be doing that day or week
  • Book suggestions for at home reading with their kids based on the time of the year or common family/life situations (maybe someday I’ll even be able to get some requests for books on different topics, like bringing home a new baby, to feature on the book suggestions!)
  • Get to know your librarian/my favorite part of the day-like a quick video I do every day so parents can get to know me better
  • Activities they can do at home to extend what we’re doing in the classroom/library
  • Virtual summer reading program-I’m not sure how this would work but me reading a book snap video by snap video maybe?

It’s a start! Any other ideas for connecting with parents through Snapchat? Feel free to throw me a comment-and definitely send me a message if you want to share your libraries Snapchat account. I’ll be snapping from ours at FPSLibratorium. Look us up-hopefully, we’ll have some great things to share!

Cool Tools, Thing 24: Control the Info Flow with RSS & Feed Readers

I really, really, really wanted this tool to work out for me. The idea of having an easier way to organize and keep up with the overwhelming flow of information is so so appealing. Unfortunately, a lot of this experiment felt like an overwhelming bust but in the end, I did find some handy takeaways. Since I spent most of my time trying to work with Feedly and (although I did look into a few other platforms like Inoreader) I’ll focus the majority of my summary on those two platforms.

First up, Feedly:

As it turns out, I already had a Feedly account so once I remembered how to login, I was ready to start re-familiarizing myself with the platform.

The Good:

  • It was incredibly easy to add new websites and blogs to my Feedly account.
  • It was also very easy to delete websites and blogs I no longer wanted to follow.
  • It was a breeze to reorganize the feeds I followed into different categories.
  • Figuring out how to do all of the above was very intuitive and easy to figure out on my own.

The Bad:

  • This is purely a personal preference but, I don’t like the look of Feedly. I prefer something more “dashboard style” and Feedly doesn’t provide that.
  • If I don’t like how it looks, I’m far less likely to use it (as evidenced by that fact that I apparently made an account who know how long ago, based on the feeds I’d say grad school assignment, and didn’t even remember doing it until I checked out his tool-clearly, my usage didn’t last long after that initial setup).

Which brings us to

The Good:

  • LOVED the look of it! It had that dashboard style I prefer an reminded me of other platforms I like to use like Pinterest or my newly discovered love of Tweetdeck.
  • So many options! And not just for what to add to your dashboards-you can customize the whole look of it from the wall paper to what feed goes where. You can even set up separate pages to further customize your dashboard’s look and organization.
  • LOVED LOVED LOVED that it could import all my bookmarks and automatically gave them their own page. Sorting through all of them and figuring out what can be completely deleted, what should maybe be pinned to Pinterest and what should actually stay a bookmark (and where) was tedious and mind numbing and I never would have done it if hadn’t made it so easy to gather them all up into one place.

The Bad:

  • After sorting through the default feeds and customizing the ones I kept, I found it much more difficult (in some cases impossible) to add websites and blogs to the dashboard if they weren’t on’s predetermined lists. All the blogs I wanted to add aren’t secure websites so I couldn’t embedded them cleanly into feeds. But if I tried saving them as bookmarks instead, I couldn’t get the bookmarks to actually open to those bookmarked pages when I clicked on them.
  • So.Many.Options. I found it overwhelming trying to sort through all the possibilities.
  • Doesn’t play nice with Chrome at work. This must be a work ISP issue because I never noticed it at home but, when I would try to open it up at work I ran into two problems over and over again.
    • First, it wouldn’t actually be showing me any of my pages and feeds and when I would click on the account icon in the corner, it wouldn’t display any of my account information (despite being logged into my Google Chrome profile) but, it would still display an option for “logout of account”. So, I would have to logout and log back in every morning, even after already logging into chrome. That would have been annoying enough but there was more…
    • It kept defaulting to Spanish. So not only was I trying to logout so I could log back in, I had to do it with menu options that were always in Spanish.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 12.27.25 PM

So…where does this leave me?

Regardless of what platform I was trying out, I noticed I had to wrestle with the same decision over and over again: what to add. Now I hear you saying, “Duh Serena. That’s the whole point of these things”. Maybe I over thought it but for me, it became almost a philosophical question. Like, do I stick with my current likes and interests and only add the feeds I’m actually checking every day manually, in essence do I stay who I actually am at this moment, or do I add feeds for things I wish I kept better tabs on, do I try to become more of the person I wish I was? And where is the line between helpfully aspirational and delusional?

So after going round and round with these sites and spending about a week longer on this tool than I liked, I decided that instead of focusing on the platforms, I first needed to think about the above questions. Ultimately, I decided it would be best to stick mostly with who I really am at this moment but pick one thing to aspire.

Sticking true to who I am at this time meant finding a time saving way to keep up with the new content on the blogs and websites I currently read (and spend too much time checking to see if they’ve loaded new content).  For me, that meant going with Feedly. It was the easiest one to set up and maintain of all the ones I played around with it and it’s available as an extension in the Google Chrome Store. Which meant I could keep this Chrome extension I found last summer called My Dogs.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 11.35.29 AM

My Dogs is a dashboard extension that automatically loads each time you open a new tab. The background is always a different adorable dog photo complete with a fact about that dog breed or dogs in general. It also automatically includes a to-do list, the weather, the option to play relaxing music, your bookmarks, a search bar,  the time and, access to all your other Chrome apps (which now includes Feedly on my page-I even moved it all the way to the top so I don’t even have to scroll to see it and be reminded to check it).

Fo my one thing to aspire to I chose keeping up with the news and focusing on my goal of becoming more media literate so I can help my students do the same. I found I super cool website that will help me do just that, Newsmap.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 11.40.43 AM

Newsmap is a great visual dashboard of the current news topics that lets you get a quick overview of the news. Stories are color coded by topic (national, world, sports, entertainment, tech, health, business) and further coded by brightness. The brighter the color the more breaking the news. When you hover over a story with your mouse a larger box pops up with more information and the option to click on it and go to that news outlets full article. You can also create an account and customize the way you see the newsmap (caveat: I have yet to successfully set up an account. Both at work and at home when I try to setup an account the little loading wheel just keeps whirling but nothing ever happens…). I added Newsmap to my bookmarks bar and have been trying to add checking it to my morning routine, right before checking my email when I get to work (temptation bundling again!).

While it’s not the slick looking mega dashboard of resources I envisioned when I started this tool, I’d say I’m still in a better place than I was before I started looking into my options. Not all improvements need to be grand and splashy to have an impact and I think these little tweaks will definitely have an impact on me and how I use my time.

Cool Tools, Thing 3: Twitter & Online Communities

Just like the Cool Tool on Everything Google, I was going to skip this one. I’ve had a Twitter account for a few years and once upon a time I even took the four week course ALA offers on Twitter for beginners. I’ve made some great personal contacts through Twitter and found some great ideas on there as well-so I don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of Twitter!

So, why am I doing this tool then? Because as much as I see the benefits of Twitter, I still can’t seem to move beyond sporadic usage. I’ll occasionally remember to tweet out an idea or share something that’s happened and when I’m at conferences I love to use Twitter to keep up on what everyone else is learning and finding out at the conference. But when the conference is over, my Twitter usage is too. Clearly, my relationships with Twitter needed some fine tuning.

What did you explore? I feel like a better question would be what didn’t I explore! I lost the better part of my day to the rabbit hole of Twitter resources we had to explore-and then ones they linked to, and the links in those links and so on. I spent the most time with the following resources:

What did you learn? My big takeaways after a day’s worth of reading and exploring (I wish I was joking. I literally spend my entire day Saturday on my patio with my laptop reading about Twitter. At least it was nice out) can be summed up as follows:

  • Mind your manners-Like anyplace else, Twitter has its own etiquette code and whether you’re a newbie or a lapse practitioner like me, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on the do’s and don’ts before jumping right in. Norms and values change quickly and online they seem to change even faster. What was considered okay a few months (or even days) ago might suddenly be taboo. Of course, if you’re using something like Twitter on a regular basis it’s probably easier to see the shift happening and to shift with it. But if you’ve taken any kind of prolonged break, do a quick etiquette review and do some lurking and observing before jumping right back in.
  • There’s an app for that-Or a tool or a website or a plugin or widget or a Chrome extension. For anything you could want to do with Twitter or any issue you’re having with using it, someone somewhere has come up with an idea to help you manage it better and with more ease. You just have to find one. Actually, the bigger issue will probably be weeding through all the choices you have and selecting the fix that will work best for you. But rest assured, there are helpful tools just waiting to be found.
  • Twitter loves educators and educators love Twitter-I knew there were a lot of teachers and librarians on Twitter and I knew there were education related Twitter chats but I don’t think I had realized how many there were! I mean, there are an overwhelming number of people you could follow and education related Twitter chats to participate in-there’s probably three happening as I type this!
  • Presentation Matters-This one almost goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway because I found myself doing some hard reflecting on it this weekend-what you say and how you say it matters when you put yourself out there online. And as professional educators, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard when we share online because goodness knows everyone else certainly will!
  • You can’t keep up with everything and that’s fine-This one also seems obvious but it’s a difficult one for me and one of the reasons I think I keep dropping Twitter. It just feels like there’s so much information and I get overwhelmed trying to keep up with it all so I just stop. It was nice to read more than once in this Twitter advice articles that you should just keep up with what and who you can and enjoy it.

What/how do you plan to use? So, after reflecting on a day’s worth of reading and learning, I’ve decided I need a plan for posting to Twitter more often as well as a plan for using/lurking on Twitter for ideas and inspiration more often. Here’s what I have so far:

  • Plan for using more frequently:
    • Make it a habitEarlier this year I read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and last week I listened to a Freakinomics Podcast episode about habits entitled, Could Solving This One Problem Solve All the Others? and they gave me an idea. Both talked about the idea of using something called temptation bundling to help you develop a habit. The idea is to pair the habit you’re having trouble establishing with something you already really enjoy doing. I already check Instagram every day. I will no longer open Instagram until I have opened and checked Twitter. I even rearranged the icons on my phone so that Twitter is in Instagram’s old spot so if I forget, hopefully muscle memory will take over and I’ll accidently open Twitter when I meant to open Instagram and the goal will still be accomplished.
    • Make it easier-One of the things I learned about Twitter during my ALA course was that you can make lists in Twitter. I never set any up though so after reading about them again in this Tool, I decided it was finally time to get this time saver up and running. I opened up my Twitter account on my laptop with my list of people I follow open and then, with my Twitter account open on my phone I went through account by account and saved them to different lists I made. It was also a great time to unfollow some accounts that I couldn’t remember why I had followed them to begin with. Now, when I go onto Twitter if I’m short on time I can just pick one of my lists and check in on those accounts instead of seeing and sorting through everything.
    • Know where to look-I copied the educational hashtag lists from the Edudemic Guide to Twitter article as well as Cybraryman’s list to my Pinterest account, saved them to Google Docs and, printed out copies to laminate and keep in my planner. Now, I know where to look when I need ideas and information on a particular topic.
  • Plan for posting more frequently:
    • Buffer app-I downloaded the Buffer app so I can pre-plan and schedule some of my library related Tweets. At first, I wasn’t sure about this idea. I mean, I feel like Twitter is suppose to be of the moment and scheduling my Tweets felt wrong. But, on the other hand, social media is blocked at our school so I can’t Tweet the cool things that we do as they are happening anyway. So it’s better to plan ahead and make sure what we are doing gets a scheduled Tweet rather than risking forgetting entirely at the end of the day. Plus, the Buffer app lets you schedule out pretty far ahead so I can just add this to my weekend routine. When I sit down to plan my weekly calendar I’ll just look at what lessons and activities we’re doing and schedule my Tweets!
    • Keeping track of chats-Did you know there’s a all-in-one Google Calendar of education chats? I didn’t either! I was able to add the calendar to my Google Calendars at work and I can check it and set reminders for chats I really want to participate in! Now when I miss out on a Twitter chat it will be because I’m busy, not because I didn’t know about it. ***Side note: How does NYS not have a Twitter chat for educators?!?! Maybe when I get some more edchat experience I’ll start it for us!***
  • Plan for keeping it professional: For the most part, I don’t think my Twitter account (or any of my social media accounts for that matter) have a professionalism issue. I’m not one to post anything overly negative to social media or share anything overtly personal. However, after reading a Gwyneth Jones blog post I found through Jennifer LaGarde’s, Twitter: A 140 Character Love Story I decided my Twitter profile could use a revamp.IMG_4911
  • First up, I rewrote my profile to make put my teacher self first and foremost. I also took note of the advice to avoid grandiose claims and took out the super librarian part.IMG_4919
  • Then I noticed that I was calling myself an enthusiastic elementary school librarian but my profile pic looked anything but. So, I updated that to a more friendly looking picture. I also tweaked the wording a little bit more so it flowed a little better.IMG_4920
  • But, it felt a little void of personality then so I tried to add in something else about me at the end again.IMG_4921
  • Then, the toughest change to make: a new header image. I love my header image of Bobby Hill yelling at his dad about the dog dancing competition! It also felt in keeping with my personality but, I wasn’t sure if it went with my new profile goals so, I replaced it with another picture I had on my camera roll, a notebook I saw at a gift shop that I liked.IMG_4922

Then, it occurred to me that I could use one of the awesome image maker tools I had read about for Twitter to make my Twitter header! So, I made my own header using that same quote.IMG_4923So far, I think I might actually like it better. I didn’t take all of the advice in the article. I kept LibrarianOnTheLoose as my Twitter name and I kept the line about crushing librarian stereotypes even if it is a little grandiose because, honestly, I think I do crush some librarian stereotypes every day. And if someone wants to convince me that the Bobby Hill header should come back and that it totally worked, I would be very open to that. 

Alright. Wish me luck on my Twitter adventures-and hey, maybe come find me on there!

Cool Tools, Thing 38: Augmented & Virtual Reality

I was so excited about this one! I have heard about Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions and even got to try out Google Cardboard briefly at a workshop a few months ago-these seem like guaranteed ways to get students excited about a new topic! Since I don’t have the actual viewfinders, I decided to check out Google Expeditions and just use the iPads I have available in the library.

My 6th graders were getting ready to start a Social Studies inquiry on China so I thought it would be cool to lead them on some guided expeditions of things like the Great Wall of China and get them familiar with the landscape, history and culture of China. Not only would it give them some background knowledge to draw from during their unit, it would hopefully get them more excited about learning even through their inquiry.

The first thing I did was download the app to my phone and tester iPad in the library (we’re no longer allowed to download and delete iPads from our teacher iPads on our own. We have to put those requests through help desk. If we want to test out an app there is one unlocked tester iPad in the library we can use.). Later at home, I convinced my husband to be a student and help me test out the guide/explorer format (Side Note: Every time I opened my camera app to snap some pics of what was happening on my screen, he would get disconnected from the guide but not until I tried to go back to Google Expedition. So if you want to try this with your classes and would like to get some photos or videos of the experience, you’ll have to have someone else be in charge of that with a separate device. Otherwise, it will really slow down the expedition). I loved that the expeditions have built in points of interest and questions for the teacher guide to prompt/ask the students. I also loved that they were scaled in rigor so you could adjust the questions for your students/classes as necessary. My husband thought it was cool that the explorers are guided to look at what the instructor wants them to look to help keep them on track and I loved that as the teacher, I get feedback from the app on how many student explorers are following along and looking where I want them to be looking (seriously, how do they do that!?!?). Since I only had one student explorer testing it out with me, I’m not sure if there is anyway for it to indicate who isn’t looking where they are suppose to be looking or if you just look around the room and see who’s looking in the wrong direction.

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You may have noticed that my last sentence implies that I never used Google Expeditions beyond that testing session at home with my every patient husband. That’s because I never did get to use it with my 6th grade classes. At school the next day I wanted to test it out one more time before I formally requested the app be installed on the library iPads (when we want an app that installed that isn’t already on the preapproved list, we have to fill out a form to request that it gets added to the pre approved list and then, if they notify you it made the list, you can request it be added to the iPads you want/need it downloaded to.) The form asks you all sorts of questions about your testing out process so I wanted to test it again as I filled out the form so I could answer completely and accurately. Except, I could no longer get the app to work.

It would open but on my device it kept telling me no explorers could be found and on the iPad it would say no guides could be found.



I double checked that both devices were on the same wifi, nothing changed. I tried turning the wifi on and off for both of them, nothing changed. I tried restarting both devices, nothing changed. I took them home and tested them out on my home wifi, worked perfectly.

So, as it turns out, the settings on the wifi used in our building blocks the devices from being able to find each other and makes it impossible to use Google Expeditions as intended. I’ll be submitting a form asking them to change that but, I’m not expecting a speedy resolution, if I get one at all.

I then looked at some of the other options I had learned about in this tool, namely Google Cultural Institute and Google Maps Street View Treks, to see if they could substitute for Google Expeditions so I wouldn’t have to scrap my idea entirely.

Google Cultural Institute is a swell idea but, to get the most out of the videos, you still need some kind of Google Cardboard viewer and I don’t have those (and can’t afford them or get them here in a hurry) so that kind of takes some of the wind out of the sales on that site. You can view the videos on a computer and move around within the video image but it definitely losing something sharing it on the larger smartboard or even computer screen. (Although, it wasn’t much different viewing them on the iPad than it was doing the Google Expeditions on the iPad.) It’s also a great resource for museum style resources in the comfort and convenience of your classroom-they had a great collection on The Art of Chinese Crafts. Most of the videos though were of museums and not the actual landscapes and major attractions (like the Great Wall expedition I had wanted to take my 6th graders on). If you’re looking to bring the museums of the world to your classroom and/or don’t mind pre-recorded Expedition style videos, this is a great resource for classroom use and has tons of topics from tons of places. But, it didn’t give me that free form exploration feeling I was looking to get (and didn’t have any videos I could find on the Great Wall).

So I moved on to Google Maps Street View Treks instead. I was definitely let down by this one more than the Cultural Institute. The Cultural Institute had plenty to offer, it just wasn’t exactly what I was looking to find. Google Treks was surprisingly sparse in comparison-there are currently only about 20 locations available. For those locations you can see some cool videos and some panoramic photos but it’s not as self guided as the Google Expeditions. Plus, I found it incredibly frustrating that when I clicked on “Explore in Street View” instead of taking me to the street view map for the location I was actually viewing (in this screenshot, the Eiffel Tower), it would just take me to a general landing page for Google Street View-and there was no way to search for the location I had been at and wanted to view in Street View!

In the end, I scrapped the lesson entirely and went a different route. The music teacher and I were going to collaborate on an end of year project for 5th grade so I reached out to him about modifying it slightly and doing it with 6th grade as well. While there are certainly some cool options out there and I probably could have made something work from Treks and/or the Cultural Institute, in the end what I really wanted to do was a Google Expedition and I decided if I couldn’t, I’d rather just do something else entirely.