Want to “Hangout?”

Last week, I discussed the importance of utilizing technology to empower students.  In order to accomplish this great task, we must embrace the idea that students crave to connect; don’t we all?  In fact, during a recent Back to School Night, I stressed this point to parents and with Google right at our fingertips, why not “Hangout?”

When a teacher welcomes video calls into the classroom, whether it be with an author, someone in a different state, or in a recent case a musician and curriculum creator, students are suddenly able to venture outside the walls of their classroom.  They’re engaged, listening, speaking, interviewing, and in some cases dancing.

IMG_0045IMG_0008It only took one Google Hangout for students in Rebecca Leary’s class at Center School to believe that each of them can be a real life superhero.  Lourds Lane, creator of the SuperYou Curriculum (a program  designed to help students find their inner superhero) was happy to connect.  When I introduced her brand new song to Ms. Leary’s students, SuperYou FUN Training Song, I stopped rather abruptly and asked these bright eyed kindergartners if they might enjoy actually hearing from the writer and singer herself.  Of course they eagerly nodded their heads!  I simply “called” Lourds through Google Hangouts and she magically appeared ready to rock their world.

From discussing the song to dancing each move, Room 14 was on a mission to spread an important message across the school, that in fact every student can be a real life superhero.  We shared their dance video from the Google Hangout with every class hoping students would be ready at the very first Whole School Meeting to try it.  Guidance counselor Kelly Pickens, who uses the SuperFlex Program to empower students to be flexible with their minds, also taught the song to several classrooms and an energy started to fill the halls.

As it turns out, Friday afternoon was no ordinary Whole School Meeting at Center School.  Students, teachers, and administrators followed the moves and sang, “I’m in training.  It won’t be long.  I’ll be a superhero at the end of this song.” while Lourds watched with excitement.  Ms. Leary’s class was center stage showing the rest of the classes how it’s done as the whole school was in essence performing live.



IMG_0031“We use our hearts to love, we use our eyes to see, we use our heads to understand, the superhero is me.”

Students not only signed this line toward the end of the song, but discussed it during the final part of our whole school “hangout.”  They left thinking, “The superhero is me.”  In fact after the meeting, I walked down the hallways hearing students repeating it to themselves over and over.  Imagine the potential if every student walked around believing this.

One Google Hangout with one classroom empowering a group of kindergarteners led to another with every student, teacher, and administrator at Center School.  This was the very first time a whole school danced to this special song and not only did the singer get to witness it, everyone in the room connected to her and she connected right back.

TEACHERS!- Please take advantage of the screen share option Hangouts provides.  When collaborating with up to 10 people, one can share his or her screen with the rest of the group.  You can also live stream your content straight onto YouTube (Hangouts-On-Air) and so much more!  Please reach out to your technology integration coordinator with questions.

Very special thanks to Matt Cipriano and Mike Wolf who go well beyond IT support!!  You are both superheroes!






Multiple Browser Tabs – No Problem

Photo: Over-the-shoulder of student looking at a Google Doc

Student working with tabs of Google Docs in Chrome web browser on a Chromebook.

So much of our everyday computing experience takes place in a web browser. The Internet is so ever present in our lives we barely even notice what browser we use or take much time to learn how to use any of them better. Yet, one of the most common things that contributes to a computer running sluggishly is having a string of open tabs across the browser window.

More than a handful of browser tabs can seriously drain a computer’s memory resources. It can make the browser and the whole computer drag to a halt, even to the point of crashing the browser.

This can be particularly frustrating when conducting research or just trying to maintain a line of inquiry without constantly using the Back button, among other reasons.

Fortunately, there are some extensions that can spare browser tabs from churning active memory in the background and alleviating some of the frustration when your browser becomes unresponsive.

Image: The Great Suspender, a Google Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store

Available for free in the Chrome Web Store, The Great Suspender, a Google Chrome extension, frees up precious memory while browsing with multiple tabs.

Being a Google Apps school system, most teachers and student spend a lot of their time working in Chrome. Enter The Great Suspender, a clever Chrome extension that reduces the memory drain while keeping out of focus tabs visible and in the background, even retaining the favicon and title text as normal.

Using The Great Suspender you can maintain multiple windows even with multiple tabs in each without crippling your computer’s performance. It is the kind of extension you never knew you needed but will soon be unable to live without.

Image: The Great Suspender Options Screen, a Google Chrome extension

There are options available to fine tune the automatic suspension of the out of focus tabs, as well as an array of other management features. It even can help in managing the basics of your entire browsing session.

A lesser alternative for Firefox is Add-on called BarTab Lite X. While it does not have nearly the feature options, it will restore tabs on demand and reduce the memory strain on your computer while browsing with multiple tabs open.

Image: BarTab Lite X, a Firefox Add-on

Whether working simultaneously in multiple Google Docs or reviewing multiple articles during research, working with multiple web browser windows and tabs will no longer slow your computer to a crawl.

Your web browsing experience will never be the same.

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