Chrome Extensions in the Classroom

My well-documented technological woes are the bane of my existence as a teacher but I know how important it is to do my best to incorporate technology for the benefit of my students.  When I discover or “finally” master an app or a program, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.  None of it comes easy for me.  It’s a good reminder of what education is like for many of my students.

This week we had a choice of activities and topics for our blog post, and though both were very tempting, I chose to explore some Chrome extensions.  Out of the list of twelve, six of them really interested me.  Here’s a bit of my exploration and insight in no particular order.

Grammarly is hands down one of the first extensions I can say I wish my students and colleagues used on a regular basis.  It helps with every single thing that the user types … emails, letters, essays, and other documents can be both spelled correctly and grammatically sound!  Glory hallelujah!  If more of my students and colleagues used this extension, my eye twitch would probably get a whole lot less pronounced.  I began using Grammarly a few years ago and I will admit that it has caught more than a few grammatical errors in my writing!  In our fast-paced world it is so very easy to make mistakes while we are typing and we often hit send before fully proof-reading our work.  Imagine sending a cover letter or resume to an employer that was full of spelling errors, or an email to your boss that starts “I seen you in the hallway but forgot to tell you about my terrible grammar.”  Grammarly definitely can help prevent the user from feeling foolish by pointing out the errors of our typing ways before we hit send!

Screencastify 

I used this for the first time last semester to produce a video and I really liked using it!  Screencastify is “mostly” intuitive, meaning I figured it out pretty much on my own (a huge adulting win for me!).  Though I didn’t figure out how to turn off the webcam capture on the video I made (oops!), I definitely saw the value in using Screencastify as a tool in the classroom!  I have since used this with a few of my classes as a way for them to create “presentations” without having to get up and speak in front of the class.  The students loved the freedom of creating an artifact in this manner and had fun recording themselves.  This semester I plan to use it as one of the ways students can provide evidence of their thought processes and to self-assess their work.  One area where I thought it might be useful is in assessing and analyzing their own work is to “talk me through” their assignment (a video of transmittal, if you like) and point out areas where they meet the specific criteria of the assignment (a thesis in an essay, for example).  I also have plans to use it as a way for students to create their own content to teach to the class in an upcoming pre-AP ELA 20 assignment!

Mercury Reader is something I also learned about last semester and have used a few times in the last nine months.  I absolutely LOVE that it takes away the ads and distractions from online content, leaving a beautiful clean copy to read or print.  When using a blog post or web-based article, Mercury Reader is absolutely the easiest and best way to get a version that is uncluttered for student use.  DF Tube is another extension I learned about last semester and have used it ever since to get rid of the distractions while playing youtube videos for my classes.  Please tell me I’m not the only educator that has had a perfectly harmless, appropriate video loaded and ready to show a class and on the side saw something that made me cringe, quickly block the screen from student view, and tried to recover while the class made hooting noises.  DF Tube can help prevent the from happening by taking away the distracting sidebar and leaving a clean screen for viewing.  I have found this one is useful at home with my twelve year old who likes to surf Youtube.  With DF Tube enabled, she has to manually search for videos – genius!

Make GIF is an extension I just learned about and I am going to try to hide this from our VP who likes to send daily memes … he might try to up his game to GIFs!     Though I do not have many uses for this extension in my ELA classroom, I can see where it would be valuable in other learning areas, such as Communications Media.  That being said, I can see where it might be fun to incorporate into ELA – for a character in a novel, students could find a video depicting the emotion or feeling they think the character is feeling and make a GIF!  Though I tried to use MakeGIF on both my home and work computer, I kept getting an error code when I tried to share the GIFs I created.  More playing is in order for this one.

Wakelet is an extension I was excited to learn about!  It allows for the saving and organizing of articles, videos, tweets, blog posts – just about anything on the web.     As I experimented with it this past week, I can already see the value – it is simple to save content and access it when and where I need to!  No more flash drive or using Office 365 to keep a document titled “Important Links for _________”.  This could really help students who are doing research papers or assignments – their resources could be saved in Wakelet for easy access.

So many of these extensions could be adapted for use in my planning, instruction, and assessment.   The planning and instruction portions seem to be easier for me to wrap my head around, but there are a few of the tools that do translate well into assessment (Screencastify).  The use of technology in the classroom is important for students – it is such an integral part of their daily lives and the more we teach them to use it with care and caution and with a specific purpose in mind, the better at it they will become.  With the prevalence of the internet in students’ lives, it is vitally important for educators to encourage meaningful and appropriate use – digital citizenship should be explicitly taught in the classroom.  Last semester in EC & I 832, we discussed this topic at length and the Screencastify video I linked earlier in this post was my views on what it means to be a digital citizen.

The following video describes the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship:

Image result for digital citizenship

source

A great resource for educators is Digitial Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools.  This document can help educators to become more aware of the ways in which they should promote Digital Citizenship in schools as well as outlines Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.  It was the first document I read in preparation for my major project in EC&I 832, which was a mini-unit I planned for ELA 20, which I link to in my reflection blog post.  Web safety should be priority for our students and in order for that to become reality, educators should be aware of and plan for meaningful lessons about how to use web tools safely and effectively.

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