The Zebra Pen

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you know that I focus on educational technology and Universal Design for Learning solutions. Recently I was contacted by Zebra Pens to try out a new product called the F-402 Ball Point Retractable pen.

I have to admit that I was unsure; however, this is an amazing pen because this stainless steel pen has provided one of the most comfortable and smooth writing experiences I have ever had. I take it everywhere with me and won't use anything else.

Check out some of the solid features:
  • Stainless Steel Barrel
  • 0.7m Point Size
  • Black/Blue Ink Color
  • Easy Glide Ink Performance
  • Designer Metal Clip for Confident Clasp
  • Designer metal clip provides an elegant yet confident clasp 
  • Refillable with F-301 Refill

I would highly recommend that you check the Zebra Pen out. You'll never want to use another pen!

Fixing Incorrect Badge Count on Your Dock in Yosemite

I recently noticed that the badge count for Messages on my Dock was incorrect on my Macbook Air. I am currently running Yosemite and have noticed that this happens from time to time. It would not disappear however many times that I opened messages, then open and closed the application.

Here is a quick way to fix the problem for any badge count issues:

1. Make sure that you close completely out of Messages (Apple Q).

2. Conduct a spotlight search (top-right corner of your screen) and type in Terminal.

3. Once the Terminal opens up, run the following command killall Dock

4 Ways #Google Keep Will Change The Way You Organize Ideas and Tasks

If you are not familiar with Google Keep, it is a cloud-based way of keeping your thoughts, ideas, and to-do list organized across any device. As we help our students become more independent in their learning, this tool could help provide students with strategic ways to accumulate information and manage goals.

Here are four things you should know about Google Keep:

1. Ideas Across Multiple Devices

Google Keep can be used across multiple devices. Create a to-do list on your phone, add to it in the office, and make the finishing touches on your tablet. You may even want to consider using the Chrome Extension to make your browsing experience more efficient and effective.

2. Capture Your Ideas The Way That Works Best 

Google Keep allows you to capture your thoughts and ideas in ways that works best for you. Organize your ideas by color coding, capture your thoughts via notes, lists, audio, and photos. Click and drag your notes to rearrange your ideas in a way that works best for you.  

3. The Perfect  Tool To Plan  and Organize Collaboration 
Use Google Keep provides you with a way to collaborate with others! Managing a project? Creating a grocery list? You can easily share and collaborate with others to keep the ideas coming! This provides students with the perfect platform to plan and organize their ideas and tasks before they create a Google Doc, Slide, or Site.

4. Filter The Way You Need To

Google Keep's advance filtering tools let you search your notes by key words, who you have shared with, the type of file you attached, and even the color of your note. This is a great way to effectively find the information that you need when you need it.

Google Docs Tip: Scaffolds and Supports with a Table of Contents?

Towards the end of the year, we are always looking for creative ways to help our students learn. We often turn to projects as a way for students to demonstrate their understanding.

Whenever I give a project in my classroom, I have always found that there are three types of students:
  1. The experts who wish you would go away and disappear. 
  2. The students who need you to hold their hand and guide them through (the students we should be working with)
  3. The frequently asked question students, who often feel bad for asking you questions. 
How can you use Google to provide students with the scaffolds and supports they need? Why not turn to the table of contents feature in Google Docs to answer FAQ's or Frequently Asked Questions. Students will be able to click on a hyperlink, which will direct them to the resources they need to answer their questions. How do you do it? 

Step 1: Develop Your Instructions

After I have composed my instructions in a Google Document, I often develop 3 - 5 frequently asked questions to address high-probability questions (and barriers). 

Step 2: Make Sure Your Questions are in Heading 1 Format

In order to allow Google to create a table of contents, you will need to have your questions in Heading 1 Format. This signals to Google that you want this item in the table of contents. 

Step 3: Answer Your Questions 

Answer you questions by providing resources, short video tutorials on how to complete the task, short text instructions. Frontload your instructions with scaffolds and supports, so that you can enhance learning and avoid frustration later. 

Step 4: Insert Your Table of Contents

 Place your table of contents in the location that you would like students to access them. Now students can simply click on the hyperlinked question and get the answers they need!

Want to see it done? Check it out!


This is a great way of providing supports and scaffolds for your students because it addresses high-probability questions and barriers before they happen. What do you do if you forget to answer a question or two? Why not have your "expert" students contribute a FAQ or two? Now you have a database of questions and answers for future assignments! 

Creating a Web Page with Google Docs?

As our students gain more technological experience, how do we provide them with authentic opportunities to share their work with the world? Many elementary teachers would love to have a simple way for any student to share their work on a single web page. Many middle school and high school teachers would love a quick way for students to publish their work. Why not use a Google Doc? That's right - Google Doc!

Many of my readers would love to have their students create a Google Site; however, there may not be enough time to teach how pages and subpages work. Using Google Docs, allows you to create a very simplistic single-page website.

How does it work? 

Step 1: Create a Doc

Create your document using Google Docs and add pictures, text, hyperlinks, and other content!

Step 2: Publish

Visit the File Menu and choose Publish to Web. You will be prompted to give your permission to Publish. Any changes are automatically updated by default. You also have the option of embedding your web page into your blog or another website.

Step 3: Share the Hyperlink

When you visit the hyperlink, it opens up as a regular web page. No Google Drive or Google Docs signup needed. The interface is not as slick as a regular web page, but this does the trick when you don't have much time to design.

How could I use this? 

This is a great way to create a collaborative "web page" to share content learned in class. Perhaps students answer the essential question of the day or share what they have learned? I wouldn't say that this is a replacement to Google Sites, but it is a great tool to give elementary school students experiencing in publishing to the web. Perhaps you wanted a simple way for students to publish their work on the web for parents to see.

Embed Your Own Auto-Advancing Slideshow with Google Slides

I love the collaborative nature of Google Slides (or Google's version of PowerPoint) because of the many ways it can be used in the classroom. I recently worked with a colleague, who wanted to embed an auto-advancing slideshow on his blog of his students learning about the digestive system of cows! There are many alternatives out there, but we found a way to do this via Google Slides.

How To Create and Embed Your Own Auto-Advancing Slideshow:

Step 1: Create Your Google Slide Presentation

Add content to your slideshow in the form of pictures, text, etc.

Step 2: Publish to the Web

When you are finished with your presentation, go to the File Menu and choose Publish to the Web. This will make your presentation into an actual web document. Each time that you make a change to your presentation, make sure that you choose Publish to Web.

Step 3: Customize and Publish 

A dialog box will appear on your screen with several different options. Choose the Embed tab and customize how you want text to appear.

I would highly recommend checking each of the check boxes provided. You want your presentation to startup automatically when the player loads and you want your presentation to keep cycling through.  When you are finished customizing, choose Publish.

Step 4: Copy the HTML Code

After you click Publish, Google will generate HTML code to embed your presentation in your website or blog. Copy this code!

Step 5: Paste on Your Blog or Website

The last step is to paste your HTML code on your blog or website. In most cases, you have the option to insert HTML code (depending on the platform you are using). Another helpful way of doing this is to choose the HTML view of your blog or website. Find the spot you want to place your presentation and paste.

Still need help doing this? I'll coach you through it:

How Could This Be Used? 

If you are an educator, you know that administrators often require that we say or post an essential question, objective, or do now each day. What if you had your students answer this question by creating their own 3 slide presentation? Perhaps have students answer the question or state 3 things you should know about ___ (your topic). Choose the best presentation and put it on your blog or website.

5 Reasons Why Reflector 2 is #Amazing

In a wireless world, how do you project your wireless device without cords and connectors? Reflector 2 is an excellent tool that can be used to mirror multiple devices to your laptop, Macbook, Android device, or Fire TV.

How does it Work?

Reflector 2 works very much like the original Reflector. Simply mirror your wireless device over WiFi to connect to your computer. A mirror of your wireless device will appear on your computer screen. Connect your computer to a projector and you are ready to share!

Why Reflector 2? 

Here are 5 ways Reflector 2 is an unbelievable product:

# 1: Project multiple devices at the same time! 

You now have the ability to project two devices on your computer screen at the same time! The Smart layout feature will automatically find the best position for each device on your screen. Do you want to hide a device? It is now possible to do this without disconnecting it completely from Reflector 2.

# 2: Reflect iOS and Android Devices!

You have the ability to reflect both iOS and Android devices. Best of all, you can do it at the same time! If you have an Android device, you can seamlessly use the built-in Google Cast feature to project on Reflector 2.

#3: Screencasting

Reflector 2 has built-in features, which will allow you to easily record screencasts of your devices on your screen. Best of all, you can record multiple devices at the same time.

#4: Video Streaming

Streaming video is one of the biggest challenges of mirroring wireless devices. Reflector 2 has the ability to stream photos and videos from your device to your computer screen. Best of all, YouTube and Webcam streaming are coming soon!

# 5: Free Trial

The best part is that you can try it for 7 days for free! Why not give it a shot? If you decide to go with the paid version, it is well worth the value and much less expensive than other alternatives.

Lesson Planning with a POP!

Have you looked around your classroom lately? No matter your population, there is a tremendous amount of variability or diversity that exists. Some differences are obvious and others are not so obvious; however, the one constant is that variability is the rule - not the exception. How can you design effective lesson plans that meet the needs of your students? I often incorporate a simple acronym called POP, which stands for Predict, Overcome, and Plan, to help guide me.


When I start thinking about a lesson plan, I begin to predict the high-probability barriers that my students will face within the lesson. For example, I thought about the challenges my students would face in a simple reading assignment. Robert Marzano has stated that “the achievement gap is largely a vocabulary gap.” Many of my students struggle with understanding basic vocabulary terms, which makes it difficult to read a text. The physical text could pose problems because students with visual difficulties or mobility issues could have difficulty reading from a handout.


After I have predicted barriers, I look for ways to overcome high-probability barriers by frontloading instruction with scaffolds and supports. In other words, what tools could I provide my students with to successfully meet the requirements of the lesson without lowering my expectations?

To meet the challenges of vocabulary, I use a free flashcard generator called Quizlet to pre-teach vocabulary terms contained within the article. As students are reading the article, they can visit the website or app to revisit the meaning of each term. What about the vocabulary terms that we did not cover? I often provide my students with a visual dictionary called Blanchan Shahi, which combines the power of text definitions with pictures from Yahoo, Flickr, and Google images.

To meet the challenges of reading a physical handout, I often provide my students with options (when appropriate) to read the text. Students can read from the handout, a PDF copy of the text, or use a free program called Audacity to generate an audio copy of the text. You may ask, how do you have the time to create an audio version of the text? I don’t! When students finish assignments early, I often have them record their voice reading an article. I now have an entire library of articles with help from my students!


After I have identified potential high-probability barriers and provided strategies to overcome these challenges, I begin planning my lesson to meet the needs of my students. I may not be able to predict every single barrier that could possibly occur in a lesson; however, brain science is showing us that there are predictable differences in the way that students perceive information, demonstrate understanding, and engage with content.

Do you want to see my lesson in action? Check out my brief video for more details:

5 Tips for Engaging Learners with UDL

Phillip Schlechty (2011) theorized that the highest levels of learner engagement require learners' full attention and commitment. While ...