Social Studies and EdTech? I Co-Wrote the E-Book!


I am honored to announce my Imagine Easy blog posts about Social Studies and educational technology have been combined with work from Matthew Farber to form an e-book, A Technology Toolkit for Social Studies Teachers. This e-book can be downloaded for free. I hope it will be useful for your practice. Please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom if you would discuss or share feedback. Thank you for reading.

5 Videos To Move You Towards Student-Centered And Future Ready Teaching

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As educators, we know we need to make changes. We need to make school a positive place for students and teachers alike. We need to turn schools into places relevant to modern life. Those opinions are not very controversial, but it is difficult to answer questions they raise: What is the problem? What does solving the problem look like? Does changing how we do things really impact students? How does the teacher’s role change? What should we aim for when changing the way we teach?

For that last question, we should focus change on two areas: making classrooms and schools student-centered and future ready. Those two terms are not interchangeable.  Student-centered learning is the idea that the classroom should be centered on students rather than a dominant teacher. Future Ready Schools is a US Department of Education initiative working towards making school a place where digital learning tools enable student success after post-graduation. The term is often used to describe classrooms and schools where students are working on 21st-century skills.

These concepts are inter-related. Classrooms are teacher-centered when memorizing content is king. Memorizing content does nothing to give students future-ready skills for 21st-century jobs. Student-centered classrooms have students creating, collaborating, communicating and problem-solving. These skills are likely to help them achieve future personal and professional goals.

So grab some popcorn and get fired up to make your teaching student-centered and future ready!

Video 1 – What is the problem? XQ: Rethink

This video makes a strong case that American high schools are relics of the Industrial Revolution. Viewers should consider how this problem applies to elementary and middle schools too.

Videos 2 and 3 – What does solving the problem look like? Architect of the Possible and NCMS Ed Camp Period

Architect of the Possible starts with EdTechTeam CEO Mark Wagner speaking about Google Apps for Education (GAFE). It is well understood that GAFE are awesome for teachers and students.  The video gets really good at the 3:07 mark where he describes a public high school in New Zealand. Its innovative practices are obviously future ready. When Mark talks about student agency and 20% time at the school, it becomes apparent that it is student-centered as well.

The educators at Northfield Community Middle School in Northfield, NJ trust their students so much, they turn a period of every day over to them. Edcamps have grown in popularity and have been shown to be effective for educators.

Video 4 – Does change really impact students? Penn Manor: The Power of Open in Education

Penn Manor School District in Pennsylvania has a very student-centered approach. Charlie Reisinger, IT Director, says the district starts conversations with students by saying, “We trust you.” Students are given root access on their district-issued devices. This approach is as student-centered and future ready as it gets. At the 6:00 mark, the video tells the story of how this approach affected one student. Warning: anyone with any emotional attachment to children, people with learning needs, or education might get a little misty-eyed watching this part.

Video 5 – How does the teacher’s role change? I am NOT a Teacher

In keeping with being student-centered, let’s address the question of teachers last. This is not to lessen teachers’ importance. It is meant to emphasize the need to make it about the student. This video is uncomfortable for teachers at first glance because of its title, I am NOT a Teacher. Keith Hughes is a teacher FOLE. His insights will make you reconsider how students learn and how teachers facilitate that process.

Thank you for considering these ideas. If you would like to discuss student-centered and future ready teaching, please comment below or Tweet me at @edtechtom.

The Impossible to Fail Quiz in the New Google Forms

After Chris Aviles introduced me to the Impossible to Fail Quiz at EdCamp New Jersey, I liked it so much I used it with my students and created a tutorial to show other teachers how to make it. This quiz is a great strategy to deliver precise remediation to students who need multiple opportunities to learn. However, since I published that blog post, Google has since changed Google Forms. So here is my updated tutorial. 

Start by opening Google Drive and creating a new Google Form:

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Follow the pattern of adding a section and a question for as many questions as you want. I recommend keeping it short. I like five questions.

Now add the magic of the Impossible to Fail Quiz: videos! Wrong answers will direct students a video that reviews the concept addressed by the question. I use Screencastify to make videos with my ChromebookSnagIt works too, but I prefer Screencastify. Making your own screencast videos is great, but you can use any video on YouTube if you prefer. Keep the video short so students watch and quickly return to the question. To add videos to the quiz:

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Add a video corresponding to each of your questions in the order of the questions. The second video should help students answer the second question and so on.

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Now return to your multiple choice questions. You have to tinker with them so that correct answers advance to the next question and incorrect answers advance to the videos.

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Do this for each question.

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This is what students will see after they correctly answer the final question:

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Take care of one last detail on each of the video pages and you have an Impossible to Fail Quiz ready to go!

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With that, the Impossible to Fail Quiz is ready to go. Take the Google Classroom Impossible to Fail Quiz designed in this tutorial to acquaint yourself with the student user experience.

If you have any questions, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thank you for reading!

8 Google Chrome Extensions for Students with Learning Needs…And Everyone Else

Author’s note: The author is honored to have served as a Special Education teacher for ten school years. This post is meant to offer helpful suggestions to all educators who teach students with learning needs. These extensions, like many special education interventions, are beneficial for students with learning disabilities and anyone else who wants to be more productive when using the Google Chrome Browser. 

Google Chrome and its Extensions

Think of extensions as mini-programs that run in the Google Chrome browser. Users can add extensions to Google Chrome at the Chrome Web Store. Here are three ways to access the Chrome Web Store.

Find it in Google by typing “Chrome web store.” Click “Extensions” to search for extensions:

Finding Chrome web Store in Google

Find it in the Chrome browser’s Apps:

Chrome Web Store Through Apps in Chrome Browser - Cropped

Find it in the Chrome browser’s “More tools” menu. This is also where extensions can be deleted or turned on and off:

Getting Extensions Through More Tools in Chrome Browser - Cropped


Google Chrome can use a lot of memory. Users should be careful to not use too many extensions and risk slow computer performance. One way to quickly turn extensions on and off is our first extension:


Extensity allows users to easily turn extensions on and off:

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AdBlock might be the very best Chrome extension. It blocks advertisements. No more annoying distractions! Check it out in action:

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Readability takes away distractions so students can read articles. Check it out in action:

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Grammarly is a great spelling and grammar checker. It works in Gmail and text fields on websites. It does not work in Google Docs at the moment. Take a look at it in action:

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Open Dyslexic 

Open Dyslexic is an extension that converts text on screen into a font that some people with Dyslexia prefer:

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Split Screen

Split Screen allows users to view two websites side-by-side in the same browser:

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Too many tabs open at one time? Just use OneTab to condense them into links on one website. Teachers can use it to make a list of sites for students to visit. No more clutter and users still have access to sites they want in one click:

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Read and Write for Google

Read and Write for Google gives users a highlighter with four different color options.

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It also converts highlights words as it converts on-screen text to speech!

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I hope these extensions are useful for you and your students. If you have any questions or want to discuss further, please leave a comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. The animated gif screen captures in this post were made with two more Google Chrome extensions, Screencastify (which I absolutely love) and SnagIt. Thank you for reading!





Google Classroom is not an LMS. It’s better.

I have encountered many strong opinions about Google Classroom. The overwhelming majority of these are positive like my own. However, some colleagues dismiss it by saying it is not a Learning Management System (LMS).

Even the leading expert on Google Classroom, Alice Keeler, says it is not an LMS. She argues that Google Classroom is neither an LMS nor a CMS (Content Management System) because it  does not automate course enrollment, have a grade book, or house content.

Alice Keeler is right. Google Classroom is not an LMS, it’s better.

She goes on to define Google Classroom as “Google Drive Management.” This description is accurate. Google Drive Management is more valuable to students and teachers than what an LMS provides because Google Apps for Education (GAFE) are essential for collaboration and feedback. Students hone future-ready skills when they collaborate and give and receive feedback in the Google ecosystem. Google Classroom automates the distribution of Google Drive files. Conventional LMSs force teachers and students into time-wasting workarounds to access and share Google Drive files.

Teachers are better off working in Google Drive than investing time building courses in an LMS the district might ditch a few years down the road. Even if Google Classroom goes out of vogue, all teacher files will still live in Drive. I know a teacher who has invested countless hours putting multiple choice questions into Moodle. If only he used Google Forms for assessment instead! Flubaroo would easily grade his assessments and he could copy and paste questions into Google Docs or Microsoft Word if he needed. Now his hard work is invested in an LMS that is falling out of favor.

One drawback of Google Classroom is its lengthy Facebook/Twitter feed that makes reviewing old content difficult. LMSs have modules that make going back easy for students. Play around with them in your school’s LMS. They are organized like traditional file cabinets, not like 21st-century tools. Google Classroom is user-friendly and intuitive for students and teachers. But what about organizing units?

Try this simple solution suggested to me by educator Todd Nasife at EdcampQC: make each unit it’s own Google Classroom. This is brilliant. It makes accessing old units simple for students. Look at this mock-up of what it would look like for a World History class:

Google Classroom Unit by Unit

Most students and teachers I work with like Google Classroom.  I decided to poll my 7th-grade and 8th-grade literacy block students to generate some (admittedly crude) data about Google Classroom and LMSs used in my building. Check out their responses.

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Not a single student chose Google Classroom as their least favorite!

One final reason Google Classroom is better than traditional LMSs is its ability to grow and evolve. When released in August 2014, some complained that Google Classroom lacked integration with Google Calendar and the ability to co-teach classes. Since then, it has added both capabilities and so much more in less than 15 months:

  • Saving drafts
  • Questions (great for class discussions)
  • Google Form integration (no more cutting and pasting!)
  • Moving posts to the top of the stream
  • The ability to upload an image for the class
  • The Google Classroom mobile app
  • Reusing posts
  • The gorgeous redesign of the assignment view for teachers
  • The ability to archive classes

Google Classroom will continue to grow and respond to teacher and student needs. These improvements are faster and more plentiful than growth in traditional LMSs.

Care to discuss Google Classroom and other LMSs further? Comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thanks for reading. 

Use EDPuzzle to Make YouTube a Powerful Educational Tool


YouTube, the second largest search engine, is a transcendent resource for educators.  TEDEd is a great tool for engaging and assessing students after they watch YouTube videos. There is another great resource for ensuring students are getting it as they watch. This tool gives teachers the ability to add explanations during videos while individual students watch at their own pace. This free tool, EDpuzzle, is a great way to enrich video instruction.


To get started, go to EDpuzzle. Create a free teacher account:

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Use your school account to sign up. Edpuzzle has a “sign in with Google” feature that is great for GAFE schools. Students also have to set up accounts to log-in. This means teachers can easily keep track of assessment data.

Create classes and enroll students by sharing a unique class code, just like Google Classroom:

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Creating Lessons

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This brings the teacher to “My Content” where lessons are stored:

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To make a lesson with a YouTube video:

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An editor opens that looks like this:

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Teachers can add short-answer and multiple choice questions. To add a multiple choice question:

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Another good option for teachers is audio notes:

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EdPuzzle gives teachers the option to delete and re-record audio notes to get them just right. Teachers can also add a separate audio track:

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One Extra Benefit of EdPuzzle

EdPuzzle just added a “Share to Google Classroom” button:

EdPuzzle Share to Google Classroom for Blog Post

In Conclusion

YouTube is a great resource for teachers. However, it has nothing to ensure students are learning and engaged while watching. EdPuzzle changes that. Use it to make YouTube a powerful tool for your students. This is the EdPuzzle lesson I made in this post. If you have any questions about it, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. The video is The Forgotten War Hero – Milunka Savic by The Great War. It is well worth watching:




4 EdTech Tips and Tools to Revamp Multiple Choice Assessments


Check out my latest post on the Imagine Easy blog where I write about using educational technology to improve multiple choice testing for students. Please enjoy 4 EdTech Tips and Tools to Revamp Multiple Choice Assessments. If you want to discuss these tools, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom.

Back to School Night Pro Tip: Use Google Forms to Make Parent Contact Lists in Gmail

Do you want to e-mail all parents for your class without entering twenty-five e-mail addresses into Gmail? Would you like parent e-mail addresses to populate in Gmail so you don’t have to remember them?

Thanks to a great idea Damien Akelman showed me at Mooresville Summer Connection, you can have parents answer a quick form and accomplish both these goals. Damien’s idea was to have parents input their information themselves into a Google Form.

This is perfect for Back to School night. Have parents use their phones, classroom devices or simply have them meet in a computer lab. Share the form using a URL shortener such as or

Your form should have four simple questions. Word the questions exactly as you see here:

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This is what parents will see:

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When you have collected your responses, go back to editing your form:

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This creates a Google Sheet with your responses. In that Google Sheet:

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You now need to open the CSV and briefly edit it. This means uploading it back to Google Drive if you are using a Chromebook. It’s a small inconvenience. If you are using a computer with Excel, simply use that to edit the CSV. This is the only edit you have to make:

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Save your file. If working on it in Google Sheets, you will need to download it as a CSV again. The key is that you have to wind up with a CSV file on your hard drive. The file should look like this when you open it:

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Now go to Gmail.

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This will open a new window with your Google Contacts.

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You will receive the prompt below. Choose the CSV file you downloaded.

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You will see the contacts you just imported on the side of the screen. They will be named “Imported Today’s Date (#of contacts).”

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This is what you see after you click on the group:

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This is what you see when you click on a single contact:

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Now you can e-mail a parent by simply typing their name in the Gmail “to” field:

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You can also e-mail the whole contact list by typing the name you gave it in the Gmail “to” field:

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Thanks for reading. I hope this tutorial was helpful for you. Please let me know if you have any questions by commenting below or tweeting at me at @edtechtom.

GAFE-friendly Tools to Teach Evidence-based Writing



I am honored to once again be published on ImagineEasy’s blog. This time I write about how educational technology improves writing and research. Please enjoy GAFE-friendly Tools to Teach Evidence-based Writing. If you want to discuss these tools, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom.