Tech Tuesdays: CopyComments for Google Classroom

by Kathryn Nieves

For Google Classroom users, the Docs and Slides “comment” feature is critical to providing effective feedback for students. Many teachers use this tool as a way to provide personalized comments for their students, helping to highlight areas to revise or point out areas of success. However, if the teacher wants to provide a template for students to complete, the students are unable to see this comments section. There is a new Google Chrome extension that allows for this type of assignment, though: CopyComments for Google Classroom.

CopyComments can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. Once a teacher has marked up a Google Doc or Slide presentation with comments, it is ready for use. It is important to make sure the comments are directly connected to the specific text you want the student to use as a reference. In the example below, I gave guidance and extra support to help my students through a paraphrasing assignment that I wanted them to complete.

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Next, you would have to assign the Doc or Slide presentation to students on Google Classroom. Click “Create” and then “Assignment.” Fill in your title and optional instructions. Then select the Google Drive icon and upload the assignment that you just annotated with comments. Make sure to click “Make a Copy for Each Student.”

The assignment will automatically be viewable in the Classwork tab on Google Classroom. However, if you were to open a student assignment, the comments would not be there. Instead, you have to click on the CopyComments icon on your toolbar. You must sign in and allow the extension to operate on your device. Then, the extension will have you select the class and the specific assignment. The extension will only register assignments that have comments already embedded into them. Select the assignment and then click “Copy Comments.”


The pop-up window will close down when it has finished copying all the comments into the students’ attachments. You can check to make sure it worked by going into the assignment and opening a random student’s attachment. You should be able to see the comments that you made before you actually created the assignment.

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This extension is useful for providing additional support to students as they complete a task. It could be helpful for using a template to complete a writing assignment or clarify directions or requirements on a project or test. Rather than being used for feedback after an assignment, these comments could be used to help students during the actual completion of an assignment. CopyComments for Google Classroom is a relatively new extension, but can be extremely useful in supporting students in the classroom.

Tech Tuesdays: CopyComments for Google Classroom

Tech Tuesdays: Talk and Comment

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: Coffee Klatch at Panera Bread, West Orange, NJ, on Thursday 9/20/2019, 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., to launch the 2019 School Writing Contests. All are invited.

Illusion and Reality:   How have these shaped your life for good or for bad?   – This will be our theme.  The prompt based on this theme will be posted shortly.  Start thinking….


by Kathryn Nieves

The beginning of a new school year always brings the challenge of finding new tools to support the needs of each student. For me, that means there is always one or two students that have a need that my list of extensions, websites, and tools, do not support. This year, as I was planning to introduce text annotation to my sixth graders, I thought about my students who struggle to type their words or need speech-to-text tools. How could I get them to annotate on a webpage? Then I found Talk and Comment.

Talk and Comment is an extension for Chrome browsers that allows students to make voice comments on any webpage. Typically, my students use Diigo to highlight and make comments on their reading, but for my students who need the voice typing support, this provides another alternative.

Once added from the Web Store, Talk and Comment requires approval to use the device’s microphone. After approval, the tool is immediately ready to use.

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The logo on the toolbar at the top of the browser allows you to toggle the extension on and off based on usage and preferences. When the extension is activated, the logo will appear in a circle in the middle of the browser scrollbar. Clicking on it allows you to begin recording immediately.


Clicking the X will stop the recording from saving. Selecting the check mark will cause a popup window to appear with the URL to the recording that can be copied and then pasted to a variety of places.

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The notes can be copied and pasted onto social media websites, like Twitter or Facebook, and they will immediately turn into a recording file that can be played.

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In addition, the comments can be pasted into Google Docs, providing similar results. Students can keep all of their recordings in one Doc as notes and then share the notes with a teacher or peer for them to listen. Pressing the play button allows you to listen immediately within the Doc.


If the transition from URL to recording file does not occur right away, highlight the URL and press Ctrl + K to move the process along.

For students who do not have access to Chromebooks or laptops with a Chrome browser, this tool is also available on Android phone devices from the Google Play Store. It functions in a similar method as the extension but appears in the corner of your device’s screen as opposed to on the scrollbar, which allows for recordings across apps.

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Talk and Comment is an easy-to-use tool that doesn’t have a lot of overwhelming features, which makes it perfect for struggling students in an ELA classroom. Students can use it to record their ideas, comments, or even feedback in peer review, and then share it with others through the URL. The fact that the other user does not even need the app or extension to listen to the recordings makes it ideal for classroom use.

Don’t forget to register for the NJCTE 2018 Fall Conference: Approaches to Writing, K-12! Featuring keynote speaker NCTE President Jocelyn Chadwick, the conference will take place September 29 at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in Tabernacle, NJ. Register today!

Tech Tuesdays: Talk and Comment

Tech Tuesdays: Five Popular Screencasting Tools

Screencasting is a popular way for students to show what they have learned and it has many applications in the language arts classroom. The idea of pairing audio and visual together for the purposes of presenting writing, explaining an analysis, or providing a tutorial for someone fits easily into the demands of ELA. Screencasting is digitally recording a user’s screen, where a person maneuvers around the screen and speaks at the same time. With the popularity of this activity in the classroom, there are many options for teachers to recommend to students. This list includes my top five choices that span devices and platforms.

  1. Screencastify

Available for: Chrome browser

Screencastify is my go-to screencasting tool when I need to make tutorials for my students or create flipped classroom videos. It can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store and will immediately appear in your browser’s toolbar. When you click on the logo, a pop-up window will appear with a variety of options, including the functions to begin recording.


Screencastify has a variety of options for recording, including only recording one tab, the entirety of the desktop, or only the webcam. Once the settings have been set, press the blue “Record” button. A window will appear asking confirmation to share your screen and, once approval is given, the countdown to record will begin. Press the logo again to select the end of the recording. The video will be saved in a Drive folder. You can export it to YouTube or download it as an MP4 file, too.

Although Screencastify has a premium paid version, the free version is sufficient enough for teachers to use in the classroom. In the years that I have used it, I’ve never had the need to create a video longer than ten minutes or created enough videos to go over the 50 per month limit.

  1. Educreations

Educreations is an Apple app that can be used on an iPhone or tablet. It is an interactive whiteboard app where you can draw, write, animate, and narrate a video to share with others. While there is a Pro account, the free option still has a lot of tools and functions that would be appropriate for students in the classroom. For teachers in an iPad classroom, automatic synchronization can occur between student accounts and the teacher device, so creations can be instantly viewed or assessed.

Images can be drawn using the pen tool on the screen, imported from the device’s photo gallery, or taken and uploaded using the camera. Text can also be typed and placed on the whiteboard surface. You can add text or write over images and diagrams while recording. When ready, the “Record” button should be selected and the app will begin counting the duration of the video. After selecting “Done” at the completion of the video, the video can be saved and made private or shared.

For classrooms that are not 1:1 and instead use a BYOD system, Educreations is a good option because it allows Apple users to complete the screencasting process on their phone or personal tablet.

  1. Loom

Loom is another tool that can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. It is similar to Screencastify, except it is a little easier to use, which can be helpful for students. Once downloaded, the logo must be selected from the browser toolbar to begin recording. The pop-up window offers a variety of options prior to recording.


After the recording is finished, select the logo icon from the toolbar again and the recording will immediately end. You will immediately be transported to a Loom account page, where you will be able to view your video or download it as an MP4 file. A URL for the video is automatically copied to the device’s clipboard, so it can be instantly shared with others. If someone views your video on Loom through the URL, they can select emojis to represent their feelings about different parts of the video and can comment on the work. You can also edit your work, such as trimming out unnecessary parts, within the program. The video can be password protected, if necessary.

One nice bonus is that Loom is currently working on creating an app. Once created, the program could be used as a separate app, functioning without the internet or a browser. If you refer another person to use the tool, your video duration limit moves from 10 minutes to an unlimited amount of time.  

  1. Screencast-O-Matic

Available on Windows, Chromebook, and Apple, Screencast-O-Matic is another popular screencasting tool for educators and students alike. Similar to the other tools, it offers a premium option, although the free version is sufficient. Once downloaded on the device, the tool is ready to use. When you select that you are ready to begin recording, a box will appear on your screen. You can drag the box to fit the dimensions you want to record. It will also provide your settings for recording, including the use of webcam, screen, or both. When ready, select the red button that reads “Rec” and the time will begin to count as it records the screen. The red button will have turned blue at this point and a pause icon will appear. This button should be selected when the recording is finished.


You have the option to add the video to YouTube, upload it to your Screencast-O-Matic account, or save it as an MP4 file. If you choose to upload it to YouTube, all of the information you need to create the video, such as a title and tags, can be completed within the tool. All this work will immediately be transported to the YouTube video.

  1. A-Z Screen Recorder

Another alternative for students who are in BYOD classrooms, A-Z Screen Recorder is an Android app that students can use to create screencasts from their phone. Once the app is downloaded from the Google Play store, you need to click on the app’s icon to activate it. Five buttons will appear in a semicircle shape, which provides you with your options.

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The options include settings, which allow you to change the resolution and other recording options, screenshot, recording, gallery for all of your previous work, and camera. If you select the red camera “Record” icon, the app will count down and then will immediately begin recording everything on your device, alongside your audio. There is an unlimited amount of time for recording. If you swipe your finger down from the top of the screen, there will be a notification that allows you to either pause or stop your recording. There is no limit on the number of times you can pause a video. When you have selected “Stop” and your recording is finished, you are able to share your video with others.

While these are not the only screencasting tools available for students today, these five are some popular ones that provide the same opportunity for students regardless of device or platform. Screencasting is a great way for students to explain their thinking, demonstrate what they have learned, teach others, or reflect on their learning. The possibilities are really unlimited in terms of ELA classroom application.

Tech Tuesdays: Five Popular Screencasting Tools

Tech Tuesdays: Mic Note — An App for Online Notes

by Kathryn Nieves

Secondary and even higher level education students are faced with lecture and discussion-based courses. For some students it can be difficult to record notes they need for future assignments during this time, especially students who are struggling. Mic Note is an app that can help to overcome that problem.

Mic Note is an app that can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store and used across devices. It allows users to record lectures or discussions. When the app is opened, a pop-up window appears and displays all of the app’s features. The left sidebar immediately offers a Welcome letter and a Sample of a completed note. Both of these can be deleted to make room for your own notes. Selecting the page icon at the top of the sidebar will allow you to begin a new note.


The top bar of the pop-up window provides the options for beginning a new recording. There is a play button, a stop button, and the duration of the recording. The microphone encircled by blue on the right side is the button to select when you are ready to record.


When the lecture or discussion has begun, click the microphone button in the pop-up window. As the app is recording notes can be taken in the notepad space below the recording.

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As soon as words are typed into the notepad, a timestamp is attached to it for future reference. Users can jot notes about the words being discussed in the lecture or elaborate on points being made. Bolded, slashed through, and italic words are also an option, as are bullet points and numbered lists. When you click on a specific timestamp, the recording immediately plays from that time to help recall information that was discussed. Images and PDF files can also be imported into the notepad to connect to the lecture. Photos can also be taken to add.

This app would be ideal for students who need assistance with note taking. With teacher or professor permission, it would be a great way to review previous material. Since all notes are linked to a time, students can go back and listen to moments they found confusing. These notes can also be exported or emailed to other people, so collaboration is possible. For example, in group discussions, a recording and notes could be sent to all group members. In socratic seminars, one of the roles in the outer circle could be to record the discussion and add notes. These notes could then be shared with the teacher for accountability.

Mic Note’s simplicity is one of its biggest strengths. It is really easy for students to use and could prove to be useful in courses where listening and note taking is necessary.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Mic Note — An App for Online Notes

Tech Tuesdays: WriteWell Online

by Kathryn Nieves

For struggling students in English classes, writing can be a daunting task. Even getting started with an outline can be challenging. WriteWell Online is a resource that can be of assistance to these students or any students looking for a little extra guidance in writing.

WriteWell Online is an app from the Chrome Web Store. It is also accessible through the website. It is a freemium app, so there is a free option for classrooms, but there is also a paid version with more features. If you are on a Chrome browser, the app can be found after downloading by either using the website URL or clicking on the “Apps” tab in the browser.

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WriteWell requires an account to be created before using. Once an account has been created, you will have access to different writing templates to help guide you through the writing process. Click on the “Create New Document” to begin the process.


You will enter the template library, where a variety of resources are available to use for writing. The left sidebar shows categories to filter the template options. WriteWell offers templates geared toward middle and secondary courses, as well as college applications. Hovering over the templates will cause a pop-up window to appear which provides more details about that option. You can also preview a template before selecting it.


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Once you choose a template, a space to begin your written piece will appear. It has steps on the left side for you to follow. Each step is met with sentence starters and ideas provided by WriteWell. These ideas can help form each stage of the writing process. It includes tips and tricks for composing the section.


You can actually delete the sentence starters and type your own answer in that text box in order to compose your essay. Formatting tools, similar to ones available in Google Docs and Microsoft Word. You can also edit the section tip on the left side if you want to include specific notes. This space could be edited by students to include tips that you provide as the teacher.

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The templates are completely customizable. The order can be dragged around to support the student’s needs or the requirements of the teacher. Extra sections can be added based off of student ideas if needed.

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Once you have moved through all the steps in the left sidebar, there are two additional options. You can add Grammarly to provide a grammar-checking feature. You can also preview all of the work you have written. Once the sentence starters are replaced by your writing, the preview will place all of the writing together.

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When you are finished writing your piece, it can be exported as a Google Doc, Microsoft Word document, or email attachment. It can also be shared directly with emails.


WriteWell Online allows for five free documents to be created. This number decreases if a document is deleted, so students can delete their draft once they have submitted an assignment. While it may not be a tool that every student would need to use in an English Language Arts classroom, WriteWell Online could help struggling students organize their ideas and begin the writing process. It’s a good website to keep in the technology toolbox to provide students, if needed.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: WriteWell Online

Tech Tuesdays: Using Fluany to Practice Vocabulary

Successful integration of vocabulary into the curriculum is always a difficult area for teachers. In past weeks, I’ve reviewed Google Dictionary and Flashcards, as well as PearDeck, for vocabulary instruction. This week’s technology tool also focuses on vocabulary. Fluany, a Chrome extension, provides a way for students to practice learning different vocabulary words while browsing online. Fluany takes user-created lists of vocabulary terms and, as people are working on their Internet browser, creates a pop-up that asks them to correctly identify the term. While not forcing the idea of repetition to memorize, the extension allows for frequent exposure to vocabulary words to increase usage in the student’s life.

Once Fluany has been downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, it can be seen in the Chrome browser toolbar. Its icon is a pink octopus.


Clicking on the octopus icon will bring you to a pop-up window. Initially, there will be sample vocabulary decks already included. You can delete them to make room for your own sets. In a purple framed box, there will be an option for you to create your first list. You would type the name into the box and then select “Create List.”


Now, whenever you click on Fluany’s icon, your newly created list will appear. From there, you have several options on how to proceed. The first option is to begin adding the terms to the list. You would click on the list you just created to open the editing window.

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You can add as many terms as you would like. They can be Tier 3 or domain specific vocabulary words associated with different texts being read or other vocabulary words you want to recall easily to apply in writing. You would add the term as the question and the definition as the answer.

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Vocabulary words can also be removed at any time by hovering over the word and selecting the trash can. So, once a word is mastered, that single term can be deleted without removing an entire study set.

Once all of the vocabulary terms have been added, you are able to select how often you would like the terms to appear for practice. The time frame is customizable. It ranges from one term appearing per minute to one every hour. This setting determines how frequently the extension will ask questions about the vocabulary terms.

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In order to activate the extension to ask vocabulary questions, you need to open the extension and hover over the vocabulary set you would like to use. Then select “Play.”


Based on whatever time interval was selected, Fluany will have vocabulary question pop-ups appear on your current page to help refresh your memory of different terms. As long as you are using the Chrome browser, it does not matter what page you are using.


Fluany will provide immediate feedback on your response and tell you the correct definition if you are wrong. To stop the extension from asking questions, just click on the Fluany logo, hover over the set you are currently using, and press “Stop.”  

For students working with difficult terminology in their whole class novels, learning domain-specific vocabulary words, or just looking to enrich their writing with higher level vocabulary, Fluany would be a great tool for them to use. Since it appears on any screen currently in-use in the Chrome browser, students could receive vocabulary questions while they are on social media or streaming television shows. It embeds the practice into their daily life and is customizable to their timeframe and their needs.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Using Fluany to Practice Vocabulary

Tech Tuesdays: VoiceIn Voice Typing

by Kathryn Nieves

Google Docs’ Voice Typing feature has been a staple of student modifications for awhile. Students and educators alike use the feature in order to use their voice to dictate their responses within a Google Doc. The updates from the past year, which expanded the speech recognition software and opened up more possibilities of voice command, have only cemented the tool as a must-use in classrooms. However, one of the biggest downfalls of Voice Typing is that it is only accessible within Google Docs.

VoiceIn Voice Typing, a Google Chrome extension, brings the accessibility of Voice Typing to any webpage. Accessible within the Chrome browser, users are able to use their voice to type responses. It even uses the same speech recognition as traditional Google Docs Voice Typing. Once added from the Chrome Web Store, the extension logo will appear in the browser’s toolbar in the right corner of the page. The logo appears as a black microphone.


Before using VoiceIn Voice Typing, you have to make sure the microphone in your computer is activated. Click on the extension’s logo in your toolbar. A popup will appear on the screen asking you to approve the microphone’s usage. You would click “Allow” and the microphone would be activated. Your Chrome browser may restart the first time you select this option.

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One the microphone is activated, the extension is able to be used on any website where a typed answer is required. Some examples include social media sites and Google Forms short and long response questions.

When you are ready to begin writing with your voice, place your mouse cursor in the place where you want the typing to begin. Then, you right click with your mousepad. A pop up will appear and you will select “Start Recording.”

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You can also activate the recording by clicking on the logo of the black microphone in your browser’s toolbar.

You will know the VoiceIn Voice Typing extension is recording because the logo in your browser toolbar will turn red. Then, simply begin speaking and the extension will pick up your words. You will have to indicate punctuation, as the extension does not automatically insert it.

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When you are finished, you can stop the recording the same way in which it was started. You can either click on the now red microphone logo on the toolbar or right click and select “Stop Recording.” You can go back and physically edit any capitalization or add any punctuation when you are finished.

This extension is great for struggling students who need assistance with their writing. It opens up the speech-to-text possibilities beyond just typing in Google Docs. Now, their short answers on Google Forms can be verbally written and submitted or their responses on any website that requires a short or long answer. For blended or online learning environments, this tool would be an easy way to modify discussion post assignments for students. Even though it would be really beneficial for students who may struggle with writing, the tool could be useful for anyone.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: VoiceIn Voice Typing

Tech Tuesdays: BriefTube–A Chrome Extension

As we move further into incorporating multimedia elements into the classroom, a new set of problems can arise. In the same way that we can have students who struggle to analyze and understand text, the same issues are present for viewing videos. Since embedding media into English Language Arts instruction and the idea of media literacy is so important, using the tool BriefTube can be a potential solution.

BriefTube is a Chrome extension, which means it works on any Chrome browser. It offers a variety of tools to help students as they are viewing videos in the classroom. Once installed through the Chrome Web Store, students need to create their own account. Their school-associated email is usually the best choice for their login. When a website is eligible for use with BriefTube, the extension icon will light up in red. A gray icon means it cannot be used with the page currently being viewed.


The best place to try this tool out is through a YouTube video. While it works with all videos, its best benefits occur when the video is on the longer side. Once you are in a video of your choice, you should click on the BriefTube extension. You will have several options, including Outline, Search, and Common Words, as well as the BriefTube Facebook support page and the community page where you can email with questions and support.


When you initially select the BriefTube icon, it will take a few seconds for the extension to recognize the video. The outline is the first resource to appear. It breaks down the video into different chapters with appropriately titled sections beneath them. The titles tend to come from the words mentioned at that particular moment in the video. The extension also provides the time for when this particular section of the video begins.


When users click on the individual sections, the extension immediately moves the video to that exact moment.

If the outline does not bring you to the exact moment you need, the “Search” tool can be used. When you click on this tab in the extension, you will see both a search bar and a more detailed transcript of the words spoken in the video.


In addition, you can also search for specific words or phrases within this tab. The extension will compile a list of times in the video where that word and phrase are stated. Similar to the outline, if you click on each instance where the phrase occurs, the extension will immediately transport you to that portion of the website.

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The last category allows the user to create a word cloud of the most frequently used words in the video. The bigger the word in the word cloud, the more frequently it is used. This tool gives you a good sense of the main ideas of the video.

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BriefTube is a simple tool that allows users to interact with videos more easily than before. In the classroom, this tool would come in handy with students who need to find specific evidence in a video. Without having to rewatch a video over again from the beginning, students can easily look through the outline or search for specific moments. This tool could help with embedding multimedia research or completing classwork that uses videos. It is simple to use but extremely helpful with media literacy in the classroom.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: BriefTube–A Chrome Extension

Tech Tuesdays: Verso — Discussions with Anonymity

Discussions are synonymous with English classrooms. Whether discussing opinions on current event articles or a class novel, students are expected to share their ideas with their classmates. It might be hard to imagine how technology could possibly fit into such an important face-to-face element in the classroom. However, Verso, an online application, is a great way to mix up class discussions with technology. It allows teachers to create opportunities for class discussions with both anonymity and accountability. Verso allows a teacher to post a question and allows students to respond to it while appearing as anonymous to their peers. At the same time, it requires the student make a post themselves before they can view the responses of their classmates.  

Verso can be accessed by both students and teachers through the website on any device. For Chromebooks, it can also be downloaded as an app from the Chrome Web Store (Chrome apps can now only be downloaded to Chromebooks). It allows for the ability to sign up with a Google account, Microsoft account, or another email. Once a teacher makes an account, different virtual classrooms can be created. Since Verso is “freemium,” offering both free and premium options, one classroom is the limit for the free account. Classrooms can be created by selecting “Classes” on the left sidebar and then choosing “+ Add Class” from the next page. Teachers are offered the chance to name their class, indicate their number of students, grade level, and subject. If the class status is labeled as green and “Open”, it means that students can continue to join that class.

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Once a teacher has saved their class, they will notice it appears on their “Classes” tab, which is accessible through the left sidebar of the website. Along with the title of their class, a short code will appear. When students reach the Verso website, they are prompted to select if they are a student or teacher. Selecting student allows them the place to input a class code. The teacher would provide this code, similar to how students join Google Classroom, so they can be part of the Verso class.

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By clicking the class, a teacher can create an activity for students to complete. Activities could simply be a discussion question to answer or could involve embedding other media elements for viewing, such as Drive files, recordings, and links. A title for the activity must be provided and teachers can provide further directions in the “Instructions and Questions” box. Before creating the assignment, the teacher must decide how many posts a student would be required to make before they can see the responses of their peers.

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On the student end, the question, directions, and any corresponding resources can be viewed. They will receive a box to write their response. Students are limited to 500 characters for their response. Once they select the blue button to post their writing, they can see anything their peers have said before them. Instead of seeing their names, they will only see the word “Respondent” and a connecting number. They are free to make comments on their classmates’ work or “like” it to show their approval.

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On the teacher end, all of the student names can be seen next to the posts and comments for accountability and monitoring. All student responses can be viewed on one screen. Data is also provided at the top of the screen. There is a number indicating what percent of students enrolled in the class completed the task, as well as the number of comments and “likes.” The number of students completed and students waiting for completion are also seen on the top of the task. Teachers can sort the responses by time, rating, and alphabetical order of student names.

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In order to stop students from continuing to work on the assignment, the teacher would have to select the pencil icon in the top right corner of the activity screen. Scrolling down to the bottom of the editing page, the teacher would find the section titled “Activity Status” and switch the button to read “Closed.” Once saved, the activity would no longer receive submissions from students.

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I have used this app in the past as a way for my quiet or anxious students to participate in class discussions. It gave them a voice that they didn’t feel comfortable using in face-to-face situations and allowed their commentary to be heard. For my classes that love to share their ideas, it gave them the opportunity to voice their thoughts without sacrificing class time going around the room to each person. For my students who jump at the chance to participate but often need to stop and think before sharing, it gave them a reflection period to consider their words before posting. The anonymity allowed authentic conversations to occur without worrying about judgment for their opinions.

My students just recently used this app as a pre-assessment for narrative writing. Each Verso activity was a different writing prompt. They were given five minutes to finish each prompt. It gave students the chance to not only write anonymously but to appreciate the writing styles and ideas of their classmates. Other uses could include discussions on articles read in class, reflections on a novel or short story, or a way to practice for a debate. Verso really offers a world of possibilities inside a humanities classroom and serves as a nice alternative to mix up traditional class discussions or ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Verso — Discussions with Anonymity

Tech Tuesdays: Stackup — A Chrome Extension for Independent Reading

by Kathryn Nieves

With the push for more independent reading and student choice in selecting their texts, how can technology be successfully integrated? Students are reading more on their devices than ever before. Whether they’re scanning articles on their phone or ebooks on their laptops, students are all starting to bring tech into their reading practices. It can be tough for a teacher to determine how to match these new reading practices with their classroom. With the Chrome extension, Stackup, all those questions and concerns can be answered.

As an extension, Stackup functions within the Chrome browser. Once downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, it automatically begins tracking everything a person reads while on the browser. Proclaimed as the “Fitbit of Reading,” the extension allows teachers to track the amount of time students are reading, look at the categories of what they are reading, and issue gamification badges. The extension appears on your Chrome toolbar alongside any other extensions. The purple “S” logo can be clicked on when you are on any website in order to provide you with information about what you are reading, including grade level and category of the text.

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The “level” that Stackup provides when seeking information about a website indicates the frequency that the user reads that genre of text. Once a designated amount of those texts are read, the level rises. If a user selects “Go to my Dashboard,” they have an even greater breakdown of reading data. The total amount of reading time since installation of the extension is included, as well as the number of websites read and the average reading level of the texts. Users can also view their top categories and the amount of time they have spent reading each genre.

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The badges offered by Stackup include a built-in gamification approach to reading. While it does not provide rewards and prizes for simply reading, it does award students for the different genres they attempt. The more the student reads a particular genre, the higher the level rises.

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One of the most interesting features of Stackup is the ability to create challenges. Teachers can create different reading challenges and invite their students to participate, monitoring their progress as they read.

Once in your dashboard, select “Challenges” from the left sidebar. The page will allow you to either “Create” or “Find” a challenge. Creating a challenge will allow you to customize the information based on your individual class or needs. A title must be given and there must be a specified duration of time that the challenge will occur. You can then select the number of hours or minutes students are aiming to achieve. Advanced options to include a leaderboard or to participate yourself are available. Teachers can choose to work alongside their students and can opt for friendly competition by allowing a challenge leaderboard for readers with the most time to be displayed. The option to hide the leaderboard is available, however, if one does not feel comfortable. Regardless of whether or not you choose to display a leaderboard, the teacher will always be able to see the data on student progress.

After the challenge is created, a code is provided for other users to join the challenge. This code could be given to students for easy access. The students would follow the same process as their teacher for accessing the challenge section of the dashboard. However, instead of choosing “create a challenge,” they will select “find a challenge” and enter the code provided by their teacher.

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Students also have suggested websites for reading and their corresponding categories available to help encourage their reading. The most popular websites read by their peers will also be included so they can see what is popular. Students can even search through Stackup’s library to find articles of interest. By clicking “Library” on the left sidebar, they can filter articles based on category and reading level and then open the article to read.

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Once students are enrolled in the challenge, teachers receive graphs and charts of student progress both as a whole group and individually. The amount of time read can be tracked, as well as the growth or decline in reading level. All of this information can be accessed and searched through the “Groups” tab on Stackup’s dashboard.

In the classroom, Stackup could be used as a way to motivate students to read and to encourage different types of reading. Many students do not see their internet article browsing as “reading” since it isn’t a novel, but using this app could change that. With the ability for teachers to participate in challenges with their students, it could also be a way to build a community of readers in the classroom. While the 40 Book Challenge is popular for novels, an alternative could launch simultaneously in classrooms focusing on reading different article genres. Stackup is very easy for teachers and students to use and with the increasing number of 1:1 districts, it could be a great tool to track student reading and interests.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Stackup — A Chrome Extension for Independent Reading