My First Google Summit

It’s been awhile since I’ve written an actual post, but I have to make an update about my first Google Summit! I attended one in Staunton, VA over the week and I must say, I am hooked. I would love to go to another in the future. Heck, I’d love to be a part of EdTechTeam for that matter! I had a fabulous time getting to know the team sent for this Summit, and I enjoyed presenting 2 different sessions. I even got asked to quickly demo a tool during lunch the second day.

The two topics I was able to present on were Ramping Up 1:1 PD with Google Forms and Calendar, as well as Google Calendar Tools for the Busy Professional. My PD one was a teaser of what I plan to do at VSTE on it. The biggest difference was that this time it focused on the tools, and at VSTE it will focus on the history and planning. Google Calendar is a favorite of mine, but it’s an often underutilized tool in my experience. I was able to show ways to make it work better for the user, including color coding, organization, and settings. Both of my sessions were pretty well attended for such a small summit. I had around 30 in my calendar session, and about 15 in my PD one. Overall, my feedback was 4.8 in both, which I think is great for a first Summit!

I found the atmosphere of the Summit to be very energetic. I was the only one from my district to attend, so I felt like I had a lot that I needed to take in and absorb. I was watching the presenters from EdTechTeam themselves, and noting the passion that they infused their presentations with. I feel like it will help me become a better presenter, and (hopefully!) Google Trainer in the future.

The sessions I attended on the second day were full of information, and I was on overload trying to absorb it all. I definitely took some good notes, and have already sent things to my staff. I tried not to send too many things, but just enough to whet their palette. I’m sure quite a few will save it for later to read, which is what they do with a lot of my emails. I just love being helpful. If you want a copy of the emailed resources, grab it here.

Since returning to school today (We had Monday off for Columbus Day), I have been working on organizing everything and planning my next steps in terms of what I do with my staff. After all, attending is one thing. Now it’s time to share my newfound knowledge with the rest of my staff. I have new ideas to add to my Fluco Toolbox posts, new ideas for PD for my staff, and new resources to send them periodically.

Thanks for helping me feel rejuvenated, EdTechTeam!

Fluco Toolbox: Storing a File in Multiple Locations in Google Drive

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever needed to have a file in your Google Drive in multiple locations that would always update to the latest saved version? This is a handy little tip that most people don’t know about, but is super handy!

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Storing a File in Multiple Locations in Google Drive

First, the basics:

Name: Storing a File in Multiple Locations in Google Drive
URL: –
Cost: –
Problem this tool solves: Store a file in multiple locations in Google Drive and no matter which location you access the file from, it will always show the latest version.

First, open Google Drive and locate the file or folder that will be stored in multiple locations. Click on the folder to select it, but do not double-click to open it.


Next, press Shift + Z. A new box will appear. You’ll know this is the correct box because of the grayed out “Add Here” button and anytime you click to move from folder to folder, everything is highlighted in green. Choose the location where the file will also be located. The green “Add Here” button will light up. Click to add the file or folder in the new location.


If there’s more than one file or folder to move to the same location, simply hold down the Ctrl key when selecting the files and folders first. THEN press Shift + Z to move all of the selected files and folders to the new location.

That’s it! It’s really simple to do, but saves so much time. I have many teachers who share the file with colleagues in a shared folder, but also want it to be easily accessible within their own files as well. This tip solves that problem. Remember, it works for files or folders.



Fluco Toolbox: CommonLit

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to find free reading passages that included assessment tools AND have it all be completely FREE?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: CommonLit

First, the basics:

Name: CommonLit
URL: http://www.commonlit.org
Cost: FREE (No paid features)
Problem this tool solves: Free reading passages geared toward grades 3-12. Question sets can be assigned online or printed, and passages can be downloaded as PDFs. Tools for struggling readers, such as guided reading, translate, and read aloud are available. Score assignments and give feedback easily.

This Fluco Toolbox post is mostly for my English and History/Social Studies folks, but teachers of other subject areas may also find it helpful. CommonLit is a free website for teachers where text, passages, and short stories can be found. Please note that this website does not modify the reading level of passages, unlike other similar sites.

Teachers are always looking for free texts and passages to use with students. Many sites provide options, but often they are paid choices, and not in the budget for the average teacher. Enter CommonLit. This website is free for all teachers and students and not only provides passages, but assessments, and the tools to assess student progress over time. While it may not provide as large of a variety of text, the content it does provide is rich in resources.

Create an account on CommonLit. When signing up, you’ll need to fill out a sign-up form, but after the account has been created, CommonLit allows sign-in via Google and Clever. After sign-up, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. G Suite teachers are at an advantage because they can import their classes from Google Classroom, but other teachers will need to create their rosters from scratch. Creating a class allows teachers to assign articles and stories to students to complete.

Next, teachers should search the library. Find articles by book, genre, grade level, literary device, text set, and theme. CommonLit provides texts for students in 3-12. However, the majority of text available is for grades 7-10. These age ranges have over 700 articles combined, whereas the other groups hover around 200 on average.


After an article has been selected, there are many tools to preview before assigning it to students. As stated before, tools for reading aloud and translate are available. There is also a highlighter tool for note-taking. Teachers can preview the questions used in guided reading mode, as well as the questions used as part of the assessment.


While many of the tools are self-explanatory, guided reading is one that is not. This tool is perfect for students who need text in smaller chunks, or even as part of a small group setting. Guided reading only shows the text up to the point where a guided reading question is asked. This question only checks for textual understanding, and will not reveal more text until a student has answered correctly. However, a student can try to answer the question more than once. Correct answers will reveal the next chunk of text.

After reviewing the text, the tools, and the assessment questions, assign the text to students. The text can be assigned to a whole class, or to individual students. Again, this allows the teacher to differentiate the text for a classroom.

Students are now ready to begin reading and taking assessments on CommonLit. Students will need to go to the CommonLit webpage and choose to sign-in with Google. They’ll need to connect their account. CommonLit will ask them to create a password. Have them use the same password that they use for their email accounts.

After students have taken assessments, the next step is to analyze student progress. This can be done on your dashboard by selecting “Student Progress” in the drop-down menu. At a glance, you’ll see the comparison of informational to literary text, students who are top performers, bottom performers, and assignment averages.


Remember, CommonLit is a completely free reading website, and while it doesn’t have the same variety of articles or the ability to adjust the reading levels of a text, it is very robust for a FREE website. It’s worth taking a look at!


Rocking Kindness

It all started with an idea on a stick in a date night jar at my bridal shower last June. Now it’s evolved into something much larger involving many rocks, sealants, paints, and tools. Oh, and now it’s also moving into the high school where I work. What is it? Painting rocks to spread random acts of kindness.

I began painting rocks as part of a date night idea with my wife. We bought a few rocks from Michael’s, and some paint pens. Bethany found that she didn’t have the patience for painting rocks, but I found a new hobby.


Cue the buying of many, many pounds of rocks, acrylic paints, brushes, paint pens, and more. I tried out new ideas, listened to others, and joined the RVA Rocks! group on Facebook. I began exploring parks in the Richmond, Virginia area and finding rocks along the way.

Painting rocks is part of a spreading random kindness movement. When someone paints a rock, they seal it up with a sealant and then release into the wild. The wild could be in random parks, outside of stores, or simply just handing off a rock to a random stranger on daily errands. There are, of course, places rocks cannot be placed, but as long as simple rules are followed, everyone benefits.


Online groups on social media have popped up to share the rock love. When rocks are found, they often ask the finder to post online to a group or hashtag to share with others. I am part of the RVA Rocks! group, so any rocks I paint have instructions to post to this particular Facebook page if found. Rock groups are also used to share the progress of rock projects of members before these treasures are released into the wild. Different groups may do other activities, such as host painting nights or trading meetups. They help to build the rock community in an area.


There are a few key things to remember about rocking and spreading random kindness. First, and foremost, is that it is about spreading random acts kindness and brightening up another person’s day. Anyone participating should remember that rocks won’t always be posted online to give notice that they were found. Participants should also remember that the goal is not to “hunt” rocks. The goal is to enjoy the local community and explore. If a rock is found, great. If not, then folks still had a chance to get out and explore. Finally, be kind and take only a little. Sometimes, a lot of rocks may be found. Most should end up rehidden, and only favorites kept. This keeps rocks in the wild spreading around and around. Often, I will rehide most in the location where I found them, take a few to keep, and a few to rehid in other locations. If you can’t remember these key points as you participate, spreading rock kindness may not be the right hobby for you.


Do you want to get started spreading rock kindness? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find some rocks. You can purchase rocks from Home Depot, Lowes, or landscaping places. Some folks use rocks they find in the wild or their backyards. Make sure your rocks are cleaned off!
  2. Buy acrylic paint & brushes. If you’re just getting started, you just need a few bottles of acrylic paint. Walmart sells Apple Barrel brand for 50 cents a bottle. Your brushes don’t have to be expensive either. You can buy a package of random sizes.
  3. Don’t forget the sealant! You’ll need to seal the rocks after they have had time to dry. You can use a spray sealant (I like Krylon Triple Thick Clear Glaze for the shine), or something like mod podge. Follow the directions, but make sure the paint on your rock has had time to dry!
  4. Paint your rocks. Have fun, and paint to your heart’s content. If you want to sketch a design, it helps to paint a thin base of white paint on the rock first, let dry, and then sketch.
  5. Label the back of the rock. After the front of the rock dries, don’t forget to tag the back of the rock. If you’re part of a rock group on social media, use their tag. Not part of one? Search to find one in your area. I usually write “Post to RVA Rocks on FB”. I also tag with my artist name, TheChespinKid, and add the year. Write whatever you like.
  6. Share your work with your rock group. This is optional, but if you’re part of a group, it’s fun to share the hard work you put into making that rock before releasing it into the wild. It also helps others to learn to recognize your work and style when rocks are posted as found.
  7. Release into the wild! Time to let that rock go. I find local parks to be my favorite place, but rocks can also be dropped while on errands. Be careful dropping rocks inside of stores. Most stores do not allow this, especially near food. State parks also do not allow rocks to be placed inside. If you’re not sure, ask someone in your rock group.
  8. Keep an eye out for shared rocks. If you asked for your rock to be posted to your rock group, keep an eye out for posted photos after you release the rock. However, keep in mind that 3 out of 4 times, your rock will not be posted as found to the group. That’s okay! Painting and hiding rocks are not about you or getting recognized by others. Remember, it’s always about kindness first.


If you get started with painting rocks, respond to this post and let me know. If you’d like to see more of my rock work, check me out on Instagram: TheChespinKid. If you have questions about rocking with kindness, just let me know!

Fluco Toolbox: Timeline JS

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to have students do more than just another timeline on a poster? Have you ever wanted them to be able to create a timeline that was interactive with different multimedia elements embedded?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Timeline JS

First, the basics:

Name: Timeline JS
URL: http://timeline.knightlab.com/
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Create interactive timelines rich with multimedia tools. These timelines can easily be shared and saved. The timeline is created using a Google Spreadsheet template.

When I first began teaching in 2009 (I know, I know, I’m young!), this was the kind of tool I wished was around back then. Who hasn’t given a project that involved creating a timeline? Chances are, students created a timeline for a project on paper or posterboard, and it only showcased the date, the importance of the date, and maybe an image. It was a static timeline, and pretty basic as far as the information it represented.

Fast forward to today. Timeline JS is more than just a static timeline with pictures and information. Now links, Google maps, videos, and more can be embedded within the timeline, which is created through a Google Spreadsheet template.

Before I delve into how to use the tool, check out some of these created samples:

Nelson Mandela’s Extraordinary Life: An Interactive Timeline
Revolutionary User Interfaces

Those are definitely a step up from the timelines of days gone by! This post will introduce creating a timeline, but it is highly recommended that you watch the How To video under Resources to guide you.

The first thing that must be done when creating a timeline is to copy the template that Knightlab provides on their website. It can be retrieved here. This will save a copy of the Google Spreadsheet to your Drive.


Once the template is downloaded, it’s time to edit the spreadsheet. Timeline JS instructs users to NOT edit anything in Row 1. These are the column headers, and should not be changed, as this will mess up the timeline. Though there is not a limit for how many slides can be used in a timeline, Knightlab recommends no more than 20 slides. This keeps the timeline from becoming too long and unengaging to the user.

Row 2 is where the timeline is begun. This will be the title slide in the timeline. Users should skip to Column J and give their timeline a title. Column K will provide a simple description of the timeline. Columns L-O deal with the media. This is where an image can be added. Provide the link to the image, and make sure to credit the creator.

Here is what mine looks like, both in spreadsheet and as a final timeline image. I have used an image that is saved on my Google Drive and shared publicly. There is no way to preview your timeline as you work, but you can use the Publish to the Web feature. To find the directions for this, refer to the video in the Resources section below. Once the timeline is Published to the Web, follow the directions at the bottom of the Knightlab homepage. Now you can preview as you work on the timeline simply by clicking the blue “Preview” button.


Once the title slide is done, all that’s left are the information slides to go along with it. These will be done similarly to the title slide. First, input the date to use. You can be as specific as the time, but it’s not required. If there is an end date, such as with a battle that lasted multiple days, you can add that as well. After the date is entered, then do the media, and add captions where necessary. If importing images from a cloud-based storage, such as Google Drive, make sure you have set the sharing options to public. Finally, you can add a color background by putting in the HTML color code for the color you wish to use. Also, here is a link to all of the different types of media that Timeline JS supports and how to embed them in the timeline.

Here is a snapshot of the data for my timeline within the Google Spreadsheet:


Here is a quick video sample of my timeline. Unfortunately, WordPress.com sites cannot have the timeline embedded into it. For a direct link to this timeline, go here.

For those importing images from Google Drive: One thing I noticed as I worked on my timeline was that I had to get a specific share link in order for my images to show up. Right click on the image to be shared, then change the share settings to “Anyone with the Link can View”. Once this is done, copy the link directly from that same screen by clicking the “Copy Link” button. If you only right click the image in the Drive and then “Get Shareable Link” the image won’t appear in the slideshow.

Once the timeline is set up to your liking, you can then refer to the website and make optional changes, such as font, starting slides, and more. There is a direct embed code, as well as a direct link. Here is the direct link to my timeline. I can always go back and make changes to my timeline in the future using the same Google Spreadsheet file. All changes to it are automatically updated in the link.

Enjoy creating your own awesome timelines!


Fluco Toolbox: Quickshare Screenshot

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to take a screenshot in Chrome, but couldn’t remember the key combination (Chromebook) or wanted to open a program to accomplish the task?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: QuickShare Screenshot

First, the basics:

Name: QuickShare Screenshot
URL: Link Here
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: While working in Chrome, take a full or partial screenshot of the active window. Tool works for any device operating with the Chrome browser.

If you’re a Chromebook user, the only way to innately take a screenshot and save it is to use a combo of keys on the keyboard. A shot of the whole screen is captured and saved in the Downloads section of the Chromebook. If you’re a Windows user, you have many options from native Windows programs to free downloadable options. However, if you use both devices frequently, or are simply loving that Chromebook, Alice Keeler’s Quickshare Screenshot might just be your answer.


Image showing the keyboard combo for taking screenshots on a Chromebook – Ctrl + Shift + Switch Windows

First, download the extension from the Web Store using the URL above. It will add itself to Chrome, and will appear as a Drive icon in a green box with a dotted line around it.

Click the icon whenever the need to take a screenshot arises. A box will appear with options to take a screenshot of the full screen or a partial screenshot. If partial screen is selected, the screen will dim, and the user will need to select the area of the screen to capture.


Once the screenshot has been taken, it will automatically be saved to a folder in the user’s Drive called Quickshare Screenshot, and also copied to the clipboard for easy pasting into any program or resource. The first time a user takes a screenshot, they’ll need to give the extension permissions on their account.

Simple, and quick, just as the name implies. Go on and give it a try!


Lack of Passion to Connect

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of this year is that change is low in numbers. I do a lot of social media connecting, both for the school and for my own personal growth, and I’ve noticed it in both areas, so that’s where this post is going to focus.

I will admit that my posting slacked a lot until this month. I was far too busy with dealing with wedding planning and all that went with that. When I was home, my destressing time was spent with my wife and painting rocks, as well as planning a wedding and honeymoon. I had too much on the brain, and not enough to go around for everything I wanted to do. Pretty sure that’s okay, and now I’m back on track. Any big life event is going to cause a lapse in working toward change, specifically connecting and sharing one’s stories. Those are not the people I’m worried about.

I’m concerned with those who don’t feel the need to change, or to seek change. I’m concerned with those who feel they have nothing to share, don’t want to share, or brush it off. When it comes to our classrooms and schools, we should be proud to showcase what goes on inside with our students and the learning that takes place. We should want to show parents more than just a child’s grades and progress. As with anything else, one or two glimpses a year won’t tell the entire year’s story.

In my district, I run social media for the two schools I work at. I also can post to the other schools, and act as one of the social media leads for all of the schools. I have noticed that if I am unable to be at work on a given day that the posting isn’t done. I make sure events are placed on the school pages, that announcements are posted, and I try to create things where families can contribute. I love working with social media and spreading the good news about the schools in our district, but I am only one of many.

Over time, I have learned that it takes a passion for social media and leading change with social media to produce results. I can speak about being a connected educator and school branding all I want, but it takes audience members to make that change inside of themselves. Listeners have to want to make the change and follow through with the change.

Social media connectedness is a slow process. Becoming connected with others takes time and patience. One cannot start a Twitter account and expect to quickly gain followers and connections. Like a garden, one must cultivate and invest their own time in the process. I have been actively using my account for professional growth since about 2014, and it’s something I cannot stop doing. I still find some of my best resources and connections through Twitter, or because of Twitter.

For example, I went to Copenhaver Institute this past summer. Because I actively tweeted during the Institute, I not only made a new friend in Heidi Trude (@htrude07), but I also was able to connect and talk to Stephanie Doyle (@stephaniedoyle), who helps run the Virginia Teacher of the Year network. That has led to me being invited to present at the Teaching, Learning, Collaborating Symposium in Radford next month. Ironically enough, I elected to present on being a connected educator.

For as many as I see unwilling to jump on board and connect, there are others who work hard, despite obstacles. A colleague from my former district, Nicole Morris (@cnicolemorris), moved from the classroom to principalship at the beginning of this school year. She was already active in growth and learning on Twitter, and we also are connected on Facebook. What I have noticed about her switch is that as an administrator, she loves to share her schools’ stories (she is in charge of two small schools). While it’s a work in progress while she adapts to her new role, she still realizes that it’s important and shares the stories when she can. She even had each of her schools create a hashtag to use for their stories. I love seeing these little glimpses into her schools.

As I think about becoming connected, I realize that I still am looking for ways to get others to connect, but that it won’t come about without a mindset change. I cannot force anyone to become connected unless they decide that they want to do so. However, I do need to analyze my topics and how I present on becoming connected to see if I can find new ways to persuade others.