Slides Carnival

If you are looking for some new design templates for PowerPoint or themes for Google Slides, check out Slides Carnival, which you will find at  This site offers some great looking designs, many which are free to use.

Once at the site, you can browse the wide variety of designs.  These designs are found on multiple pages, and you will find navigation links at the bottom of each page.

One you find a design you want to use, click the graphic and then select either the Google Slides theme or the PowerPoint template download option.  If you choose a Google Slides theme, you will be presented with the opportunity to make a copy of the theme.  If you choose the PowerPoint option, you will be presented with a dialogue to save the file to your computer, which you can then open and modify with PowerPoint.

The template is a collection of slides of varying types.  The second slide of each template provides a nice set of instructions for how to use the theme or template.  You also get a slide that provides information about the fonts that were used and a few slides that contain icons that you can use to make your own designs.


Use the Immersive Reader Tool in the Office Lens App to Scan and Read Text Aloud

It is becoming more common for people to scan paper documents to make them digital files.  Microsoft offers a free tool called Office Lens that allows you to scan pages from a book, articles in a magazine, and even handwritten text to create these files.  This tool is available on iOS and Android devices.

It’s great to have digitized versions of paper documents.  I store lots of scanned documents in the cloud for easy access, and Office Lens can even OCR the text so that it can be edited with apps like Word or OneNote.

Office Lens also includes a tool that is almost magical.  The tool is called Immersive Reader and it will read the scanned text aloud.  This can be of great benefit to students who struggle with reading or have disabilities like dyslexia or are visually impaired.

To take advantage of Immersive Reader, first install the Office Lens app on your iPad, iPhone, or Android phone or tablet.

Next, open Office Lens and scan a document or page of text.  Once the scan is complete, export to the Immersive Reader tool, press play, and the app will read the text aloud.


Create Video Tutorials with Screencastify

Screencastify is an amazing Chrome extension that does so many things.  Do you need to do a video capture of your browser or desktop while you talk?  It does that.  It even provides a small preview window showing what’s being captured by the computer’s web cam.  Here is an example.

Need to annotate content in a browser tab with different colored digital inks?  You can do that too.

Do you need to just record a video using your computer’s web cam?  It does that.

To get Screencastify, simply open the Chrome web browser and go to the Chrome Web Store.  Search for the extension, and click a the ADD TO CHROME button to install.

The free version of Screencastify allows you to record up to 50 videos per month and your videos can be up to 10 minutes in length.  The paid version (only $2 per month or $24 per year) gives you unlimited video recordings and no limit on duration of the clip.  You also get the ability to crop and trim recordings and export them as animated .gif or .mp4 files.

To see a slide deck with lots of information about this app, visit

Send Certificates to Your Users with the Certify’em Add-on for Google Forms

Each of the GSuite apps has add-ons, which are applications that can help automate tasks.  An add-on for Google Forms called Certify’em allows you to automatically have a certificate sent to a user once he/she completes a Google Forms quiz and achieves a specific mastery goal.

Watch the video below to see how to set up and use the Certify’em add-on for Google Forms.

My guess is that this company will eventually offer a paid version of this product with more customization options.

What’s New with G Suite?

The one thing that is consistent about Google is that they change things frequently.  Here are some of the latest changes to G Suite products:

New Format Options in Slides
When you select an image or text, you will notice a new “Format options” option in the upper right-hand corner.  Clicking on this will reveal two new options- drop shadow and reflection.  You can now apply both of these effects to your text and graphics.

Goodbye, Chrome Apps
If you browse the Chrome Web Store on a non-Chrome device, you will notice that you can still search for Themes and Extensions, but Apps are no longer available.  Google says that it is moving away from apps that depend more on a device to those that depend more on the web.  The good news is that most of the “apps” in the Chrome Web Store were just links to web sites, not actual applications that ran on a Windows, Mac, or Linux device.

New Look for Google Calendar
When using the web based version of Google Calendar, you will notice that you can now choose a new look.  Just click the “Use new Calendar” button.  The change is not dramatic, but this style more closely resembles the look and feel of the Google Calendar mobile app that many people use on their Android devices.

Tech Crunch has published a nice article with a summary of all the feature updates at

Do You Really Need to Print That?

Printing is a major expense for our district. Since all staff members have a device and students in most grades have a device, we should be taking advantage of ways to share and edit resources digitally instead of printing and making copies of documents.  Here are some ideas:

Take full advantage of the sharing and collaboration features within GSuite.
Google Drive provides unlimited storage for all of your stuff.  That’s great, but what’s even better is that you can share anything in Google Drive with anyone else.  You can share individual files or entire folders.  Even better,  you and those with whom you share can edit these files collaboratively with the GSuite apps.  Taking advantage of these features should reduce your printing dramatically.

Provide feedback to students via Comments in Google Docs instead of on paper.
If you are a teacher who grades lots of writing (e.g. essays, terms papers, Night Writes), your first instinct when providing feedback for students might be to print out all of this writing and use a red pen to grade and comment.  Instead, try having students do their writing in Google Docs and turn this in via Google Classroom.  Use the Comments feature in Google Docs to avoid all of that printing.

Comments are like Post-it notes in the document in which you can include suggestions for correcting or improving the writing.  Students also have a Resolve button, which they can use to let you know that they have made the change that you recommended.  You can’t do that with pen and paper.  Having students use Google Docs also gives them access to the Spelling tool, the Explore tool, and other Add-ons.  It can also allow students to read and comment on each other’s writing through peer review.

Here is a great demo of using comments in Google Docs by Daniel Bennett.

Scan and send documents instead of making copies.
When I have a document that I need to send to another person, I rarely make a paper copy.  More often than not, I use one of our copy machines to scan and send via email.  Take a look at this video to learn how:

I also frequently scan documents with my iPhone, upload the scans to Google Drive, and then share or email the documents to the recipient.  For this, I use an app on my iPhone called Scanner Pro.  It’s great because the scans I do are automatically uploaded to my Google Drive.  From there, I can share directly with others through Drive or attach to a Gmail message.  Scanner Pro costs $3.99, but it’s worth every penny.  Other free apps will perform the same function, including Microsoft’s Office Lens.

Use Google Classroom to share resources in one convenient location.
Anyone can use Google Classroom to share resources.  The things you share with students this way cannot be lost like paper handouts, so students and their parents can access anytime online.  We even have school leaders that are using Classroom to share with other staff members.

Classroom is easy to use and integrates seamlessly with GSuite.  Instead of making copies of documents and handing them out to people who will likely use them for a short period of time and then lose or forget about them, put everything you want to share into your online Classroom.  Here is a short video to show you how to get started:

Google Tools for Assisting Students with Disabilities

Technology provides some great ways to assist those with disabilities.  Here are a few “Googley” ideas for helping students who have issues with mobility, vision, dyslexia, and other challenges:

Voice Typing in Google Docs

Students with mobility issues can use the Voice Typing tool within Google Docs to compose documents.  The user speaks and words appear automatically in the document.  The only item needed in addition to Google Chrome and Docs is a microphone.  Our district’s Chromebooks and most Windows laptops have microphones built-in.  Here is a great video with tips on getting you or your students started:

The hardest part of learning to use Voice Typing is remembering all of the commands.  A complete list is available at

Reader Applications

The Google Chrome web browser offers lots of extensions that read text.  These readers can help students who struggle with visual impairment or who have reading disabilities.  

ChromeVox (Chrome Extension and default application on Chromebooks) is Google’s own screen reader.  Here is a short video that illustrates its importance for some users.

To enable accessibility on a Chromebook, press Control-Alt-Z.  Pressing these keys will turn on high contrast display as well as ChromeVox, which will begin the audio voice overs for all items.  To turn accessibility off, simply press Control-Alt-Z again.

To add the ChromeVox extension to the Chrome web browser, visit the Chrome Web Store at 

Read&Write (Chrome Extension)
Read&Write is a Chrome extension that offers a toolbar with lots of features.  These features include a screen reader, a Speech to Text tool, and a translator tool.  A dictionary and a research tool are also available.  Highlighters of different colors allow students to mark up documents and then sort what they’ve highlighted into a new document.  Watch the video below to see a summary of these features.

Read&Write offers teachers a free subscription to the toolbar with all of these features.  To request this free service, visit

To get all of the toolbar’s features for students, your school must purchase a subscription.  Henderson Middle School already has this, so consult Kimberly Freman or Liana Kirk to ask about this subscription if you work at this campus.

To see all Chrome extensions that can be used to assist students with accessibility, visit