My Teacher Toolkit

Today’s Contributor: Melissa Prepster is an 8th grade US History teacher at Gorzycki Middle School.  She serves as Campus Innovation Connector and Social Studies department chair. Melissa loves integrating technology to help bring the past alive. In her free time, she likes hanging out with her dachshunds, traveling, and attending concerts. She has seen the Eagles over 100 times and is a two day Jeopardy champ.

As this year is winding to an end, I reflected on what I could share in this blog post. It has a challenging year to say the least. The pandemic left us grappling with so many situations that we had never encountered before and the “back-to-normal” period has presented us with even more challenges. That’s why I’ve chosen to share the tech things that have made my year of teaching easier. These are the tools I go to time and time again to help work smarter and not harder. I’m sure you’ve heard of many of these tools, but my hope is that there is something here that you can take from this to make your lives a little easier. These are listed in no particular order.

SMALLPDF (website, chrome extension)  This little chrome extension does so much. It does multiple conversions between PDS, photos and documents (Word, Powerpoint, etc). I use it the most to turn a PDF into a JPG so I can create a digital activity for students.
Here’s what that looks like

MOTE (Chrome extension)  Do you sometimes need to add audio to a google document as an accommodation for you students? Mote makes it super easy. You can use this to provide audio hints, reminders about directions or even create a quick audio version of a document.
Here’s what that looks like

READ AND WRITE (Chrome extension) Many Austin ISD students use this chrome extension to have text to speech capabilities. There are wonderful teacher applications for this as well. The best part is that you can get the pro version for free. You can make a quick audio recording of a large piece of text or make a vocabulary list / glossary in seconds.
Here’s what that looks like.

CHROME TABS / CLOSE ALL TABS – If you are like me, you use A LOT of tabs during the day, especially on my teacher station as I present to students.  I’ve found a real timesaver in getting all of my tabs ready at the beginning of the day and organizing them using Google Tabs. This makes it easy for me to navigate all of my activities. It also  stops me from reopening the same file 4 times during the day. Since we are on block scheduling, I only have to do this every other day.  If I am working on another computer and end up with 87 tabs open, I use the chrome extension “close all tabs” to just close everything.
Here’s what these two chrome management strategies look like. 

BLEND / CANVAS TIPS I can’t make a video to share these with you because they involve grading. If you haven’t yet, download these two chrome extensions: Canvas Betterizer and Teachertools.  Teachertools will let you import BLEND grades into your TEAMS gradebook. This has saved me hours. If you used it before, it now will remove emojis you’ve put in front of your assignment names in BLEND. Betterizer does a bunch of little things. When you are grading in speedgrader, it will move to the next student when you hit enter. It removes those annoying screen tips that pop up and make it so you can’t see a student’s grades. It also lets you bank and insert comments. 

Screencastify – That’s how I made all of the videos on this blog post. I can’t show this to you because I can’t use the program to make a video of me using the program. This program simply records your screen and then drops the file in your Google Drive. You can then share it with a link like I’ve done here.

I hope that one of these tools or tips saves you some time. If you have a tip or tool that saves you time, pass it on to a colleague, your department or your campus. We need all the support and time-savers we can get.

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