Recap/Thoughts: Google Certified Trainer Bootcamp

Thursday and Friday of last week I headed to Orange, VA for Google Trainer Bootcamp. I was excited and eager to learn and to see how much I could prepare myself for the path of Google Trainer. Our Trainer was Sean Williams (@seani), and I found myself learning quite a bit!

My biggest takeaway from the bootcamp was how prepared I actually was for Google Trainer. Originally, I did not plan to apply for Trainer until May 2019 because I did not feel that I had enough material ready, nor did I feel very confident. By the end of the bootcamp, I had moved my application date from May 2019 to December 2018. I should be ready before that, but that’s the absolute latest I’m giving myself to turn in an application.

Prior to bootcamp, I had taken Kasey Bell’s (@shakeuplearning) VIP Google Trainer course. Even if you don’t take the VIP version, you’ll find yourself swimming in knowledge. Kasey provides a lot of information on teaching adults and becoming a Trainer in general. If you’re looking to become a Google Trainer, I highly recommend her course, especially if you are unable to attend a Trainer bootcamp in your area. She provides a lot of extra resources as well.

I have completed a good chunk of my Google Trainer application. I still need to create a video to submit, and of course, I need to take care of offering some more Google-based PD sessions. I offer PD all year long, but it’s not always related to Google, nor do I have the required materials/resources to accompany what I do offer, as most of it tends to be 1:1. I’m not sure what I want to showcase yet with my video. I’m going to peruse YouTube to see what others have done in their videos and hopefully, that will spark some ideas or at least give me a plan of action to follow.

The application did get me thinking about my goals for next year, and I have since been able to not only design my Google goals, but also my other goals for my role as an ITRT in my district. Here are the Google-based goals I have concocted so far:

  • Offer 2-3 session options a month (18-27 total) to staff in a 1:1 Tech Bytes format.
  • Offer 1 after school session per month to all district staff (9 total)
  • Offer 2 monthly scheduled sessions during the school day to staff at FCHS/FMS (18 in all)
  • Present at 1 conference on a Google topic
  • Add at least 1 Google tool/tip to the Fluco Toolbox resources section of my site per month (12 total)
  • Work with a small cohort of teachers in my district to train/prepare them to take the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam in June 2019 (at least 6)

In addition to my goals being ready, I have already begun designing professional development sessions in a new format. I have developed a list of requirements that every PD session will have. I am requiring myself to have a Slide deck and an agenda with resources ready for every session. I created a master Slide deck to work from, as well as a master agenda template. Prior to every session, attendees will receive the agenda in a PDF and have access to the topics in advance. They can also check out the shared resources. This lets them think of potential questions to ask in advance.

So far, I’ve been able to develop 3 professional development sessions for next year. These are all on more advanced features of Google, and I’m planning to stay away from developing beginner sessions until I have flushed out a nice variety of advanced sessions. These sessions are designed so that I can use them as professional development or submit as part of a proposal to present at a conference. So far I have the following:

  • 6 Advanced Tips and Tricks for Google Forms
  • Google Calendar for the Busy Professional
  • Upping Your Google Forms Quiz Game

I’m also in the process of putting together sessions for Google Calendar on the Go! and Analyzing Google Forms data. I’ve got the list of key points to cover. I just need to complete some more research and put together the materials and images. It is definitely a lot easier to plan professional development with master templates and requirements for sessions!

Google Trainer Bootcamp is definitely worth it, so if you have the opportunity to attend one, I highly recommend doing so. It will definitely help you to prepare for the trainer application, and it also pays for your Trainer Skills Assessment exam.


Fluco Toolbox: Backchannel Chat

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 your students to have an online moderated discussion on a topic in small groups? Wished to incorporate digital citizenship skills into a group chat?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Backchannel Chat

First, the basics:

Name: Backchannel Chat
Cost: FREE version / $15 per year paid version
Problem this tool solves: Students can participate in online moderated discussions, whether in small groups or whole groups. Teachers can have students join with their Google accounts, and can download transcripts after the chat is over. Great for informal written assessments of students’ knowledge!

I have to thank two 6th grade ELA teachers that I work with, Dawn Baber and Melanie Kennedy, for finding this particular tool. I had no idea that it existed. We have used this tool already for Socratic seminars and loved it. Check out this post and this post for more information on integrating it!

Backchannel Chat is an online classroom discussion tool. It’s similar to other online chatroom websites for teachers or presenters and comes with its own host of features. There are 2 sides – a free side and a paid side. The free side comes with the basics. Teachers can create a chatroom, get a link to share it, have the ability to remove chat messages and mute students, lock a room, get a web transcript, have 30 students in a room at a time, and search an archived chat for 3 months after creation. The paid side adds on PDF chat transcripts, private messaging, add polls, share files, have 50 students in a room at a time, and search archived chats forever. The paid upgrade is $15 for an entire year and may be worth it to educators who find themselves using this feature often.


Creating a chat is simple: go to the website listed above and select the blue “Try for FREE as a TEACHER” A window will pop up and ask for the following: your email, display name, and name for the chat. Once you click “Start”, an email will be sent to the address provided with information to access the chat at a later time. The chat will also immediately load.



On the right side, users in the chat will appear. Anyone who has joined as a teacher will see an icon with a mortarboard and glasses. Student names will appear as the first part of their email addresses.

Here are some simple controls:

  • Send a message: Type text in the box at the bottom of the chat screen and either press “Enter” or select the green “Send” button.
  • Mute a student: Click the gears to the right of the student name and check the box that says “Read-Only Mode”. Then click update. The student’s name will be highlighted in red. To turn this off, click the gears again, and then click “Update” without selecting anything else.
  • Remove messages: Remove inappropriate messages by click the X in the upper right corner of the message.
  • Like a message: Click the thumbs up icon by the sender’s name in the message
  • Pin a message: Pin important messages to the top of the chat window by clicking the thumbtack icon in the desired message.
  • Lock the chat: Keep anyone from sending messages by clicking the lock icon at the top of the chat screen to the left of “Settings”
  • Chat stats: See how many times students have participated in the chat by clicking “Settings” and then stats. Each student’s name will be listed, with the number of messages they have sent listed below their name.
  • Download a chat transcript: Click “Settings” and then “Download Transcript”. Paid users will be able to download a PDF, and free users can view a web transcript. This can be saved as an HTML file.
  • Clear a chat: To clear anything that has been said in chat, follow the steps above for “Download a chat transcript” and then select to clear the room.

For those of you who are Google educators, you can force students to join the chat with their Google accounts. First, you’ll need the original web address. After the /chat/ part of the URL, add g/. This will force students to log in with their Google account. See the example below:

This tool is great to incorporate into small group discussions on a variety of topics. We have found it works great in conjunction with a Socratic seminar, and prepares students to speak on the chosen topic. Teachers will want to make sure to teach proper chat etiquette and academic speak while using this tool. Teachers may also find this tool useful if they would like to have a chat space to host office hours. Chat could be locked outside of the posted times.

If you have a different way to use the tool, feel free to make suggestions. Hopefully, Backchannel chat helps you and your students have deeper discussions!


Backchannel Chat FAQ – The website has put together an FAQ section to assist with any needs.

Fluco Toolbox: Extensity

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 found your Chrome browser running slowly? Do you have a lot of extensions installed that you use often, and don’t want to uninstall any of them?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Extensity

First, the basics:

Name: Extensity
URL: Chrome Web Store link
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Use this extension to turn extensions on and off at the click of a button and keep your Chrome browser running smoothly.

If you’re anything like me, you may have a lot of extensions installed on your Chrome browser. These extensions all have some purpose, but unfortunately, having too many extensions running at a time can slow down your browser. You may find that you have uninstalled all that you can, yet there are still so many extensions active. Extensity makes it easy to turn extensions on and off as needed without uninstalling them.

First, go to the Chrome web store link above and add the extension to the Chrome browser. Give any necessary permissions. The Extensity icon looks like a sideways yin-yang and is blue and white.

Whenever an extension needs to be disabled, simply click on the Extensity icon to see all active extensions. Click on the extension to turn it off. It will now appear to be grayed out. Click the extension again to turn it on.


Extensity also gives users the option to create Profiles. For example, if there are a set of extensions used only for work or shopping, then a profile can be created that allows certain extensions to be enabled/disabled when the profile is selected.

To create a profile, click on Extensity and then click the gear to access settings. Next, click the white “Profiles” button. Give the profile a name, such as “Work”. Click the + to add the profile. You’ll be asked to then select the extensions that should be enabled/disabled when using that profile. There are also options to select All or None. When finished, select “Save” and then “Close”. The next time you want to use a newly created profile, simply click on the Extensity icon and choose the preferred profile.


I often use Extensity when there are extensions I use from time to time, but not every day. I only activate them when I need to use them, and leave them off the rest of the time. This keeps my Chrome browser running smoothly, and can do the same for yours!


Fluco Toolbox: Managing the Chrome Bookmarks Bar

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 added a lot of bookmarks to the bookmarks bar in your Chrome browser, and later couldn’t find what you needed? Do you just have a lot of bookmarks in general, and need a way to get them organized?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Managing the Chrome Bookmarks Bar

First, the basics:

Name: Managing the Chrome Bookmarks Bar
Cost: N/A
Problem this tool solves: Create folders and an organization system for the Chrome bookmarks bar and bookmarks in general.

Over time, we tend to amass a lot of bookmarks. Even with monitoring and deleting unnecessary bookmarks, a lot can still accumulate. Scrolling through a long list can become tedious, and it can be hard to find that one particular bookmark. It becomes even more frazzling when you only want important links to appear in the bookmarks bar, but have more links than visual retail space.

We’ve all been there before, but there’s a way to organize bookmarks with folders so that links are grouped into folders and sub-folders on the bookmarks bar. Here’s an example using my own bookmarks:



As you can see, my bookmarks bar shows folders of different topics. I then use a folder tree system to organize further. Here we see I have a folder for Minecraft items, and then within that folder, I have folders for things such as Tutorials, Reference Materials, and Mods/Texture Packs. If I hover over those sub-folders, then I can find my links. Sub-folders aren’t necessary; I could have left all of my Minecraft links in the Minecraft folder and called it a day. No matter the system used, I have made it so that my bookmarks bar shows all of my important topics. I have increased the amount of visual retail space!

Let’s get started. First, access the bookmarks manager by clicking the three vertical dots in the upper right area of your Chrome browser. Then go to Bookmarks, and Bookmark manager. This can also be accessed with the following shortcut: CTRL+Shift+O


You’ll now see something similar to the following:


Instead of it being organized, you’ll simply see all bookmarks that you have saved. Let’s take a look at creating new folders. Look at the content you have already saved, and see if similar topics have been saved. As a teacher, you might find subject-specific links. You might decide to make a folder for your subject, to begin with.

Go ahead and click the 3 vertical dots in the upper right area of the Bookmarks screen. Click the option to add a new folder. Give the folder a name. Drag the folder to appear under the Bookmarks bar folder on the left side of the screen. This folder will now appear in your Bookmarks bar.

Continue to use the navigation pane on the left. Drag any bookmarks into the appropriate folder. Create more folders for other topics as you see fit. If you feel that you need folders within folders, you can do that as well! Follow the same steps used to create a folder above, and then drag the folder to the folder it should appear inside.


A completed folder system for bookmarks for Minecraft.

If you’re a Fluvanna staff member (or a staff member of any district), chances are you have a lot of important links for the district. Instead of just adding each individual link to the bookmarks bar, why not create a folder for these links? That way when you click on the folder in the bookmarks bar, all of the important school links will appear.

The next time you bookmark a website, make sure you select the proper folder. Click the star in the omnibox and in the window that pops up, make sure to select the appropriate folder in the drop-down menu. If the folder doesn’t appear there, then select “Choose another folder” and select from all of your created folders.


Creating a bookmarks system requires that every now and then you do check and make sure you have usable links and make new folders as needed. However, this system will allow you to easily access more of your bookmarks more quickly, thus saving time and frustration!


3 Tips for Teachers Getting Started With Minecraft

If you’ve been to conferences over the past few years, there’s a chance you have seen someone presenting on Minecraft and its application within the classroom. You may have loved the idea, and want to get started, but you have no idea what to do! You had a lot of new terms thrown your way, and wait, the game doesn’t come with a lot of directions?

Before you can even dive in to getting the game into your classroom and locating funding, you need to step back and take a deep breath. This is not something that can be implemented at the drop of a hat. It’s also something you can’t rely solely on students to teach you about, though they will be super helpful if you get stuck!

Tip 1: Learn to Play!

One of the first things you need to do is learn to play the game yourself. There are many ways to accomplish this. If you have children at home and they have the game, have them help you to learn. If not, then you’ll need to purchase the game. It’s available on many platforms, but the cheapest will be the tablet version, for around $7. Download the game and jump in. If you don’t like playing on a tablet and would prefer the PC edition, you’ll pay a heftier fee upfront. This is fine unless you later decide that the game isn’t for you.

That’s right. Minecraft will only give you a simple hint as to the basics- how to move, how to jump, and even how to access your inventory. Beyond that, it’s up to you to learn. As a player, you are expected to teach yourself to play. This is why so many young players turn to their friends, to books, to wikis, and to YouTube for guidance. Put yourself in the shoes of a player and explore these resources. There are a lot out there. Playing the way your students play will give you ideas of how they search, how they can improve searches, and suggestions you can provide to them.

It is during play that you’ll learn about some of those terms that got thrown your way at a conference- mobs, creative mode, survival mode, mining, and more. Through play I learned which mode would work better for my classroom needs, and how I could use the sandbox nature of the game to accomplish goals. Once I had a basic grasp of the game, I began doing some educational research.

Tip 2: Research and Explore Lesson Plan Ideas

The educational research will give you another step in the right direction. There are lesson plan ideas out there, and most are free to use. These lesson plans can spark ideas for new plans. Try some of the activities or goals out in your own Minecraft world. Microsoft has the Education Edition version of the game, and there are a lot of lesson plans on their website.

Here is one thing to keep in mind when searching for lesson ideas: some of the lesson plans have game files that only work for certain versions of the game. If you don’t have that edition, then you may have to recreate the world file, which may not be feasible. Keep this in mind while you complete your research, as it will help you to decide which version of the game to use in your classroom.

Tip 3: Learn about the different versions available.

After you’ve played and done some research, you’ll want to begin considering the different options available. Here are some you will come across:

PC Edition – This is the regular game with no extra bells and whistles. Some districts prefer to pay the upfront $27 per account and then share the accounts between students. They often create their own servers in the district or rent server space.

Education Edition – This is Microsoft’s version for schools. It is $5 per year per student. It has extra features, such as a coding component, built in server, classroom controls, camera, and more.

MinecraftEDU – This version no longer exists for purchase, but you will find lessons and world downloads still available online. This version featured classroom controls and the ability to rent cloud server space.

Look into options available, and talk to other teachers who already use Minecraft within their districts. This will help you to make an informed decision about what will work best in your classroom and district, especially when it comes time to look into funding resources.

Take your time and work through these tips. You’ll feel more prepared to use the program with students. Contact fellow educators who use the game if you have questions. You may even find that it’s not the right fit for you or your classroom, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, you’ve still learned something new!

Fluco Toolbox: Taking Screenshots on a Chromebook

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 needed students to capture an image on their screen? Needed students to capture their whole screen? Or have students found that they can’t save an image and need to capture it?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: the keyboard shortcut to do just that!

First, the basics:

Name: Take a screenshot on a Chromebook
Cost: N/A
Problem this tool solves: Allows you to capture all or part of the screen on a Chromebook

If you’ve ever needed to capture part of a screen on a Chromebook, or even the entire screen, there’s a special keyboard shortcut that accomplishes this. I use this shortcut often, and it’s how I get any training images I take while using my Chromebook. There’s no extra program to open, just 3 keys to press and hold at the same time.

First, you need to press the CTRL + Shift + Switch Windows buttons and hold them all down at the same time. Unsure of what the “Switch Windows” button is? Never fear! Check out this keyboard below. The key is circled, and can be found just above the “6” key.


When the keys are pressed, the screen will darken. I have tried to capture this in the two images below, but it is still hard to notice. The image on the left is a darkened screen, ready to be highlighted, and the image on the right is the regular view. If you decide that you no longer need to take a screenshot, just press ESC to exit the screenshot process.

To take a screenshot on the now darkened screen, all you need to do is click in the spot where you’d like to begin, and then drag out until you have captured whatever you need. Make sure you hold down on the mouse button the entire time. Here you can see the difference between the darkened part of the screen and the part being selected for a screenshot:


When finished, simply release the button, and a window will pop up in the lower right stating that the screenshot has been taken. It has been saved to the Chromebook’s storage area.


Students will need to immediately access the device’s storage and move the image to their Google Drive. Files saved to the school Chromebooks are not permanent, and are deleted whenever the Chromebook is logged out of an account or is shut down.


Need a visual? Check out this quick YouTube video:

(Do note that this video features a Chromebook that keeps work on it as long as needed. This is not the case with our student Chromebooks!)


Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Becoming a Google Certified Educator

As of Saturday, March 3, I have successfully passed both Level 1 and Level 2 exams to become a Google Certified Educator. This has been on my “to-do” list since I became an ITRT in Fluvanna County. I had originally intended to do it much sooner, but always put it off for one reason or another. That all changed when I had the chance to take boot camps on my district’s dime to better my craft. Of course, I jumped at the chance!

My journey to becoming Google Certified started with me working through some of the Google Training Center materials. I didn’t complete all of it for Level 1, and I learned a lot through hands-on application with other teachers. I had to take the Level 1 exam prior to Level 2 boot camp, so I instead used Kasey Bell’s Level 1 Matrix to see what I would need to know for my exam. I browsed the matrix and studied only the material I didn’t use often or didn’t feel confident using. My fellow Google colleagues told me that I based on what I did with my teachers and talked about with them meant I was pretty well prepared for the first exam.

I took the initial exam in December 2017 before winter break. It was far too easy for me, but that’s my own experience. I was able to finish it in just over an hour and felt very confident in my ability to pass. It wasn’t too long before I received the confirmation email with my pass status, and then later my Level 1 badge to display as proof of my knowledge.

From there, I waited for February and Level 2 boot camp. I opted to not complete any of the study materials in the Google Training Center this time around. This was mostly because I expected to get the best information from boot camp and not because I felt it was subpar. Until then, I continued exploring and learning G Suite.

Boot camp day rolled around, and I was excited. It was a very fast-paced, on your toes kind of day. I didn’t find the information to be too difficult, and by the end of boot camp, I felt very confident in my skillset. I planned to take the exam the following weekend, but that didn’t quite pan out. I actually forgot to take the exam because I was very involved in painting rocks. It was a good thing that I hadn’t registered for the exam yet!

It was probably a good thing I waited though because Kasey Bell released a Level 2 Matrix document that I could use to help me study. I reviewed the document, noting where I was weak and would probably have to Google something during the exam.

When I finally took the exam on the 3rd, I was very nervous. I knew from my tech friends who had already taken the exam that it was more in depth and would take me longer to complete. Because I’d completed Level 2 boot camp with EdTechTeam, I got a $25 voucher to cover the cost of the exam.

Taking the exam the 2nd time was indeed more difficult. I found that I would second guess myself quite a few times, and I had to look up more online than I had before. It also took me longer to complete, just over 2 hours this time around. I submitted my exam and was not completely sure that I passed. It was definitely a tense few minutes, that’s for sure!

In the end, I passed my exam. I was probably more excited than I had been for Level 1, but that’s because it felt so much harder on round 2. I’m pleased that I’m certified at Level 1 & Level 2, and I’m now ready to move on to my next goal – Google Trainer. I needed to have both of the GCE exams under my belt, and now I can focus on putting together all of the documentation for that instead. I have a long way to go, and I plan to apply for that in May 2019.