I think I just might have the best job in the world.
Where else could I spend the entire day chatting with and learning from some very smart people? Playing with apps? Installing cool software? Sharing ideas about best practices? Asking questions and solving problems? Eating BBQ and warm from the oven chocolate chip cookies? And get paid for it? (Thanks Dr. Mike.)
Exactly. Hard to beat.
Today was the second day of a year long PLC / study group / conversation on the best ways to integrate Chromebook and Google Apps into the classroom. It’s always a great time and today wasn’t different. I always walk out the door smarter than when I walked in.
We did several things today including our traditional Google tool throwdown. I picked up some new ideas including a clearer understanding of how Flubaroo works. My contribution to the discussion?
My two new Chrome browser extensions: Clearly and Announcify.
A little quick bird walk is probably appropriate here. Teachers often ask about the difference between a Google App, a Chrome Web App, and a Chrome Extension. If you already know the difference, slide on down.
A Google App is a tool that is web-based but is device neutral. Tools such as Google Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Maps, Gmail, Sites, and others become available to you when you create a Google account. You can access them through your account on any device or operating system. So you can login to your Google account on a Apple laptop, a Windows desktop, phone, tablet, or Chromebook and be able to access these tools. Google Apps are free and are available as soon as you create your account.
(Schools and districts have the option to create a special Google Apps for Education account with Google. This allows the district to create accounts for teachers and students specific to that district, providing an easy way to monitor and control access to the Google tools.)
Chrome Web Apps are basically websites. They run within the Chrome web browser or the Chrome operating system on a Chromebook or other Google mobile device. In the old days, to do anything on a computer, a piece of software had to be installed on your hard drive. A Web App is software that lives on a server somewhere else that you access through the Interwebs. These are most useful on mobile devices or Chromebooks. An example of a very cool Web App is Pocket. Apps can be free or cost money.
A Chrome Extension is a bit different. It is a small piece of software that you download from the Web Store and add to your Chrome browser. These pieces of software extend the capabilities of the browser across multiple web sites. Most add a button to your browser’s taskbar to provide a shortcut for doing . . . something. This might be a tool that helps you annotate text or helps you edit screenshots. Most Extensions are free but some cost money.
When you’re at the Chrome Web Store, you can see the separation between Web Apps and Extensions. You can browse through each section:
or do a search by keyword or specific extension name.
So . . . Announcify and Clearly are both Chrome extensions which make them very easy to install and use.
The Announcify extension is a text-to-speech tool that provides a simple way to have your computer read out loud the text on websites that you visit. For example, students can use Announcify to quickly review foundational knowledge on Wikipedia pages or the text of online news articles. Simply click the icon in the taskbar while on a site and it will begin reading the text. A nice feature that I like is the software blurs out all of the text except for the paragraph being read.
Right-clicking the Announcify icon allows you to select different voices and speaking speeds.
Clearly is very similar to tools such as Readability or PrintFriendly. After installing, you get a button in your taskbar that you click when on a website. Clearly strips all of the extra nonsense such as ads and video clips on the website and shows the page with just the text and photos specifically associated with the article.
It’s a great tool for helping kids focus on exactly what you want them to read rather than be distracted by all of the stuff that usually surrounds website articles. You and students can also adjust text size and highlight text. An added bonus? You can use the print feature to quickly print out clean hard copies of articles to pass out to kids when internet devices aren’t available to kids. An extra added bonus? When you print out an article, Clearly automatically adds footnotes and a bibliography of all embedded hyperlinks.
But the really cool thing about Clearly that makes it different than these other tools is that Clearly was created by Evernote. So when you use the highlighting tool or simply click the Evernote icon, Clearly clips the article (and any highlighting) directly into your Evernote account. And it automatically updates new highlights as you go through the article.
Both of these Chrome extensions can make your life, and the lives of your students, just a little bit easier. And if your school is heavy into Google Apps for Education, Announcify and Clearly seem like no-brainers additions to your teaching toolkit.