fluco toolbox

Fluco Toolbox: Power Thesaurus Extension

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 been browsing online and needed access to a thesaurus without all the bells and whistles, and without needing to go to a new webpage?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Power Thesaurus

First, the basics:

Name: Power Thesaurus
URL: Link
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Quickly look at antonyms and synonyms while browsing online by simply selecting a word

Power Thesaurus is a very simple tool, but very handy. This particular website has created an extension for Google Chrome that allows the user to view synonyms and antonyms for a word while browsing online.

First, install the extension from the Chrome web store. Provide any necessary permissions for it to run. Once installed, it will appear as a blue P icon among the other installed extensions.

To use Power Thesaurus, simply select (or double click) a word. A sampling of synonyms and antonyms will appear. The user can change the settings by clicking the gear icon on the lower left of the pop-up. This small preview will not show every antonym and synonym, but it will tell how many of each there are. Click on the blue “View All” link to be taken to the website to see all of the results.

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This tool doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it is handy to have installed as an extension for research and browsing purposes.

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Bit.ly

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 share a link with staff or students, but the copied link was far too long and looked horrible when shared or written on the board? Who remembers all of that anyway?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Bit.ly

First, the basics:

Name: Bit.ly
URL: Bit.ly
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Create shortened, easy to share links, that also track data on the links. Know where the link was clicked, when, and how many times total

In my experience, I feel like I tend to find a lot of folks who don’t know about the usefulness that is a link shortener. Bit.ly is just one of a few I have used in the past, but it is the one that I have continued to stick with time and time again. I love that not only can I create a “bitlink”, but also customize and track it over time as well.

To get started, go to bit.ly. Create an account on the website, which will enable the tracking of created bitlinks. Bit.ly does allow accounts to be created with existing Google, Facebook, or Twitter accounts. Follow the steps to finish signing up. The dashboard will then load.

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The dashboard houses a list of created bitlinks, sorting by date created or top clicks, and then the center section shows data on any selected bitlink. In the image above, data is shown on a recent link I created.

To create a new bitlink, click the orange “Create” button in the upper right corner of the screen. A window will slide out from the right side, and ask the user to paste the URL that will be shortened. Immediately upon pasting, Bit.ly will shorten the link. At this time, the link address can be customized. For example, the string of numbers/letters could be changed to “pelink2”. Bit.ly will not allow links to use names that other links already use.

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Once the link has been created and customized if desired, then it can be copied and pasted and is the perfect length to copy onto the board for students. The “http://” part of the link is not necessary.

A bitlink is always saved to the account and can be found later and reused. Data on link clicks and where the clicks occurred are also stored and is great for analyzing.

Bit.ly is one of my favorite, almost daily resources and I love what it can do for my work. Whether I need to share links easily through email, references, or on a plain old white board, bit.ly’s got my back!

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Sir Links-A-Lot Extension

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 needed to change the URL of a G Suite app file to make it force copies or show in template mode? What about auto shorten the link, or download as a PDF? Today’s tool can do that and then some!

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Sir Links-A-Lot

First, the basics:

Name: Sir Links-A-Lot extension
URL: Link
Cost: Free
Problem this tool solves: Use this extension to automatically create URLs for Google Suite apps – template, force a copy, download PDF, and preview. Turn any G Suite app file into a shortened URL.

I recently discovered this gem, thanks to some research and a post from ShakeUpLearning. I had no idea this extension even existed, and as I waited for it to install, I hoped it would do exactly what it promised.

Spoiler: It does!

The Sir Links-A-Lot extension is handy to have when a file needs to be force copied, a template, or even automatically download as a PDF. No more do you have to remember the text to add to the end of a G Suite app URL to make the file do one of these options. Nope, all you need is the click of a button! G Suite apps include Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings.

First, navigate to the Chrome web store using the link above and add the extension to Chrome. Give any necessary permissions as prompted. A white icon with gold links for eyes and a black hat will be added to the other extensions already installed.

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Any time a Google app file is open, this extension can be executed. Simply click it and the following options appear:

  • Force copy – page loads without preview and button that makes users create a copy first
  • Preview – view file without menus and toolbars
  • Template – preview file & easily create a copy
  • PDF – when entered, URL will automatically download the file as a PDF

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Sir Links-A-Lot also provides a few more handy buttons. These buttons quickly copy the new URL to the clipboard, shorten it with goo.gl, or open a link to the new URL in a new tab

Hopefully, this extension will make things a lot easier when sharing G Suite files, especially if sharing them for trainings or conference resources. No more having to remember ways to fix URLs. Just click a button! Sir Links-a-Lot has your back.

Resources

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Gimkit

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 students enjoy using the likes of Kahoot, Quizizz, or Quizlet, but you want to try something different, maybe something with a few more bells and whistles?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Gimkit

First, the basics:

Name: Gimkit
URL: http://www.gimkit.com/
Cost: FREE, with 2 other paid options
Problem this tool solves: Create interactive quizzes for your students and allow them to answer on their own devices. Students earn in-game cash, which they can then use to upgrade their quiz experience. Teachers can convert Quizlets to work with this site.

Gimkit is a tool that has recently come across my Twitter feed, and I think it’s a great option to use alongside Kahoot, Quizizz, and the like. It brings in some different features and mixes things up. It was also created by a group of high school students, who also work to maintain their project. Teachers are able to create “kits” and have their students compete against each other. Students earn in-game cash, which they can then use to purchase upgrades to their quiz experience. Obviously, the better a student does, the more money they earn, and the more upgrades they are able to then purchase.

Signing up for Gimkit is pretty easy. First, a teacher must select a payment tier. There are 3 – Basic, Pro, and Go. Basic is the free side of Gimkit. Teachers are limited to only having 5 kits on the site at a time, but can access all of the core features. Pro means unlimited kits and access for 4.99 per month, and the user is billed annually. It also brings in some additional features, such as unlimited classes, the ability to import from Quizlet, copy and mixing of existing kits, stats, and more. Go is the pay per month side, and has the same features as Pro. However, it costs 7.99 a month, and users can cancel whenever.

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Once a plan is selected, simply fill out the required fields for name, email, and password. Currently, there is no integration with Google, but this is a relatively new site, so if this is a feature you’d like to see in the future, contact the creators and let them know.

Once sign up is completed, the dashboard appears, along with a quick introduction to Gimkit. The dashboard is very simple. Create a kit and dive right in, or create a class. Let’s take a look at both of these features.

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First, let’s look at Classes. When creating a class, give it a name, a color, and then enter in roster names. When students join a kit, they will have to select their name from the list, and will not be able to enter a name of their own choosing. Again, there is no Google integration, so all names are entered by hand. I tried to see what kind of limit was available for class creation. I ended up making 8 classes before I stopped trying to make more. It is easy to edit the class information or to delete a class that’s no longer needed. All one has to do is click on the class in the dashboard and select which students to remove, or click the button to delete the entire class.

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Creating a kit is easy! First, choose the type of kit to create. There are three options – From Scratch, importing from Quizlet, or from CSV. Make sure to give the new kit a name, and then click “Next”

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No matter which of the above options were selected in step 1, the next step is to select a cover. A variety of GIFs are randomly displayed. Additionally, the option to search for other GIFs is also available. Select one for the kit and then the next screen will load.

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The screen that follows the “Choose a cover” one varies depending on the type of kit being created. Let’s break it down.

If “From Scratch” was selected, then the first question screen will load. Select the “Add Question” button in the bottom right corner to begin.

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The next screen is very basic. There are two options for question types – multiple choice or text input. This is changed in the upper right corner. It’s very small, so it’s also easily missed. Multiple choice questions require the question and then answer choices. The first box requires the correct answer. An image can also be added to the question. Text input merely requires the question and the correct answer. Do note that the answer is not case sensitive. Click the blue “Add Question” button to save. Questions can be edited or deleted from the next screen. Click the blue “Create Kit” button in the upper right corner to save the kit.

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If “From Quizlet” is selected, first select the GIF cover and then move to the next screen. Anyone can import a Quizlet into Gimkit. However, only Pro and Go subscribers can make any changes once quizlets have been imported to Gimkit. Users can import public sets from Quizlet or use sets they have created. Clicking on either of the options opens a new tab to search Quizlet.

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Once a quizlet has been found, switch back to the Gimkit tab. The next screen will provide instructions on importing quizlets into Gimkit. Oh and make sure to be logged in to Quizlet, otherwise, the “Export” option will not appear.

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Follow the given directions. I was unable to import the images from the Quizlet, so importing only quizlets with text may be the best option for now. I also noticed that even though I was a Basic user, I was able to edit the imported Quizlet, and could add in images if I chose to do so.

Finally, if choosing to import a CSV file, make sure to follow the guidelines in the image below:

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Note that only correct answers can be listed in the file. Once the file is uploaded and converted into a kit, then the wrong answers can be added. As a placeholder, the kit will have answers from other questions listed as wrong options. Don’t forget to change them!

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Once a kit has been created, it’s time to play!

If classes have been set up, kits can be assigned as homework. However, there is no way to securely make sure that students aren’t taking someone else’s kit since students select their names from a list in the class to play. This is where integration with Google would be handy. I don’t recommend this feature just yet unless a class can be trusted.

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Playing live games on Gimkit is the way to go at the moment. Simply click on the kit in the dashboard. Choose Play or Preview.

Choosing Preview loads a sample game on the screen. Play through just as a student would see it. Click the orange shopping bag at the top of the screen to view the market. The market is where students will be able to purchase upgrades for their name, which improves the amount of cash they can potentially earn each game. In order to earn cash to upgrade, they have to answer questions correctly. Wrong answers mean losing cash.

Choosing Play provides a variety of options for the teacher to select. There’s Classic VS Team modes, game goals, and options for the game itself. Students will be asked to enter a join code. If a Class has been selected, students will need to select their name from the roster to play.

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Once the game begins, questions will appear. Students will see the same questions repeatedly, depending on the game goal selected. For example, if the goal is to earn $1,000,000, students play through all of the questions until they earn that amount. They can visit the shop at any point during the game to add upgrades to their play, earning them more money faster. However, spending money on upgrades will set them back, and they must earn back the money to reach their goal. On the teacher side, teachers can see how far along students are toward the goal, and how much money has been earned overall.

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When the game is over, teachers are able to view a report that includes the overall game scores, as well as individual information on each student who played. Reports are also saved for later viewing. All reports are saved as PDF.

This is definitely a tool to look into using! It’s engaging and fun, and though it is lacking some features, it’s off to a great start. Hats off to these high school students, and remember, if you would like to see a feature added, do contact the folks at Gimkit and let them know.

Resources

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
URL: http://backchannelchat.com/
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.

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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.

 

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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:

http://backchannelchat.com/chat/kkjlb#
http://backchannelchat.com/chat/g/kkjlb#

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!

Resources

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.

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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.

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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!

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