technology

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

Tech Bytes: How to Offer Successful 1:1 PD for Your Staff in 4 Steps!

Last year I implemented a new program with my staff called Tech Bytes. This program featured 1:1 professional development for staff that met their schedule needs and did not occur after school at all. Each session ran for 30 minutes, and though staff may have taken sessions on the same topic, I tailored the way I taught it to the technology needs of each staff member. At the end of the year, I found that I had a decently sized group of teachers that repeatedly scheduled these sessions with me.

Reasons why my staff love Tech Bytes:
– 30 minutes of their planning period
– Based on their schedule, not mine
– Not after school
– Variety of sessions each month, with follow-ups as needed
– 1:1 mostly, small groups as requested

I’ve brought Tech Bytes back for year 2. I am in charge of both secondary schools in my district this year, and spend 2 days each week at each school, and rotate my Fridays. I’ve already set up my Tech Bytes for August and September, and as of this writing, have scheduled 24 sessions with teachers. The average teacher has scheduled 2-3 sessions from the 5 available for this timeframe. To compare, last year I only had 13 sessions scheduled for all of August/September. This year the form has only been out for 4 days and already I’ve just about doubled my sign-ups.

Want to offer Tech Bytes to your staff? Here’s how you can do it!

Step 1: Decide on 5-6 PD sessions to feature every 1-2 months
Before doing anything, you should have an idea of the sessions that will be offered to teachers. This year I am trying to make sure I offer both Google and Edtech options to my staff. I offer 5-6, but you can start with less in the beginning. Last year I tried to offer at least 3, and have stepped up my game.

Step 2: Create a Google Form for staff to select sessions that interest them
Google Forms is a great way to get staff to sign up as interested in sessions! If you are in charge of PD for multiple schools, you’ll want to create one form that leads to multiple sections based on the answer to where each staff member is located. Each PD question should name the session, provide a description of what is included in each session, and a yes/no multiple choice answer option. At the end of the form, use the checkbox grid question type to create a list of the weeks and the days available each week.

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Step 3: Email staff, and include the link to the Google form
Once a form is ready, I create an email to send to staff to make them aware of the sessions for the month. This email lists each session with a description and includes a link to the form to sign up. I send the emails every Monday for every Tech Bytes monthly series. I use RightInbox to send scheduled emails, but please keep in mind I use the paid subscription because I send many different scheduled emails each month.

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Step 4: Review the collected Forms data in Google Sheets & contact staff
I set up my Google Forms to email me when a response has been submitted about Tech Bytes. I then review the data in Google Sheets, noting what the staff member has expressed interest in and the dates they are available. I email each member, asking them to confirm dates and to select a 30-minute slot during their planning for PD. Once we work out the date and time, I create Google calendar invites for each session and send those out.

That’s all there is to it! I repeat the process every month until the end of the year. I usually feature sessions based on staff/adminstration request, new items from the Fluco Toolbox posts I write, or updates to other tools. Offering professional development as Tech Bytes has truly made all the difference for myself and my staff!

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: 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
URL: N/A
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:

 

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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

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You’ll now see something similar to the following:

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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.

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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!

Resources

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!