Instagrow a Table of Contents

A hyperlinked table of contents is a piece of practical magic for a long Google Document. The 25-page guide pictured here is much more approachable with this Table of Contents than it would be if users had to scroll or use Ctrl + F to find what they were looking for. One click and the document jumps right down to that particular spot.Table of Contents Example

Literally in seconds, you can create this beautifully simple feature for a document of your own. Here’s how.

  1. Go through your document and change the words you want to be included in your table of contents from Normal text to Heading 1. You do this by clicking and dragging over the text to select it, just like you would if you were trying to change the font or size. The option to do this is to the left of where you’d change the font, under the Format and Tools menus.Text styles normal to heading 1
  2. Click where you want your table of contents to go. Then go to the Insert menu, and you’ll find Table of Contents there at the bottom. Click. BOOM! Done.

Insert,Table of Contents

Seriously, that’s it.


If you add more Headings after your insert the Table of Contents, you’ll need to update, or refresh it, before the new Heading shows up in the ToC. Click the circle’d arrow to accomplish this feat. update table of contents


Next Post Preview: Adding a link in the footer to make navigating a long document even easier.

Footer hyperlink back to top of document

Evaluating Websites

Digital Citizenship. What does it mean? Well, part of it is being able to navigate the online world with a sense of place, getting out of the seedy spots quickly and being aware of when you’re in the right neighborhood. A week and a half ago, I was helping out at the first meeting of the Ohio Technology Standards Revision Work Group. There, educators from across our great state agreed:  evaluating websites, apps, etc. is a skill that every student will need in order to succeed.

This past year, I helped my middle school students think about the quality and credibility of the websites they wanted to use for research by giving them a list of Yes or No questions to ask themselves about the site. They highlighted in green or red, to get a visual summary of the positive and negative points. Then they added up the Yes’s and wrote a short paragraph explaining why they think the site is good or bad for their research.  Below’s an example image, and a link to the updated, blank Google Doc. Feel free to copy this, and modify it for your own students. It is adapted from Common Sense Media’s lesson on Identifying High Quality Sites.Yes no questions highlighted green or red


Next year, I’d like to share those same questions with students, but allow them to choose more options for providing me with their thoughts. Two options are voice annotation, and screen capture video.

For recording voice in a Google Document, there’s an add-on called Kaizena Mini. I haven’t tested it out with my students yet, but it seems easy enough to use. If you go into the Add-On menu, then click Get add-ons…you can search for it there.Get Add Ons in Add Ons menu

Once your students get it all set up, they select some text, click +New Feedback, and then click the microphone button to start recording. Kaizena Mini interfaceAfter they share their document with you, you can open Kaizena Mini from your Add-Ons menu to listen to what they have to say. For students who choose this option, I will have them also insert screenshots of the website showing what they are talking about in their recordings.

Screen capture videos are the next level of this same idea. While researching screen capture on our Chromebooks, I found that Screencastify doesn’t work due to low internal memory. (I like to use Screencastify for my own recordings, and if you have laptops or computers that can handle it, it’s a nice option). What did work, was TechSmith’s Snagit App and Snagit Extension.

Once your students get Snagit all set up and they are ready to use it to share their screen and their voice, have them click the Snagit icon in the extension bar, and then screen.


They may have to click Allow to let the camera and microphone power on. Then once they finish giving their virtual tour of the website they chose to evaluate, they click stop capture and then have these options to choose from. What’s great about Snagit, is that it is integrated with Google Drive. Videos save there automatically. Students can share them just to you, put them out there into the world on their own YouTube channel, or some intermediate option. Here’s an example I made.

Snagit share options


There is no shortage of information in the world today. I believe we must teach our children to sift through all of that, to critically consider what’s worth paying attention to and what’s not, and to communicate why. We should not expect our students to be thrown into the swirling cacophony of digital voices and not drown in it. Helping them learn to evaluate websites and other digital information gives them the craft to navigate past the dangerously irrelevant rapids and into the source of learning.



Presentations: Pro Level

Presentations in the education world are not in short supply, however, really great slideshow presentations are rare indeed. If you are trying to have your audience (students, colleagues, etc.) remember more than 10% of what you say, and avoid boring them to tears, or worse, confusing them, you’ve come to the right place.

David Phillips’ TEDx talk How to avoid Death By Powerpoint is downright entertaining while being incredibly practical about how to improve your slideshow presentations. It’s also based on cognitive science and psychology. If you want to skip a bit of intro, go to 5:38. That’s where I start it when I show it to my students. If you’d rather read than watch, scroll past to the overview and my personal additions to his list.

  • One message per slide. Slides are free! You have an unlimited supply. Squeezing a lot on there makes it more difficult for your audience to focus on the main point you are trying to make.
  • Avoid sentences. If people are reading text while you are giving a speech, they have a hard (sometimes impossible) time remembering what you said or what they read. Instead, use very brief text snippets and images to emphasize or enhance what you are saying. That said, if you want students to go back and view your presentation after the fact, including the full text of your speech can be very helpful. Just relegate that to the Slide notes, below the actual slide, so it doesn’t show during the presentation.
  • Size matters. Make the most important part of your visual aid the biggest. Even though the default on all slides makes the Title larger than the Body text, doesn’t mean you should keep it that way.
  • Contrast steers focus. You basically have a magic wand at your disposal if you learn how to use contrast to your advantage. Whatever you want people to pay attention to, make that have the most contrast, and make everything else fade away to a color almost matching the background. The difference between these two slides is that one gives a hard nudge on what to focus on, and the other lets the viewer wander aimlessly.
    • Contrast good Contrast bad
  • Dark backgrounds. Don’t try to compete with a giant, bright white screen behind you. Also, it’s kind to the eyes of your viewers.

The next few are my own opinion, not discussed in the video.

  • High quality images. Poor images look lazy. If you don’t have or can’t find a good image (i.e. one without visible pixels, watermarks, or blur) then paint that picture with the words in your speech.  Better to have a short caption on a mostly blank slide and tell a story.
  • Font choice. Serif, sans serif, I don’t think it matters much. But, do choose a font that is easily readable and fits the purpose of your overall message. Don’t send mixed messages. Serif fonts tend to look more serious. Informal, handwriting type fonts are fine if that goes along with your message.
  • Purpose. Some presentations are meant for a limited, live audience, others start out that way but then could be used as review, and still others are meant for a asynchronous audience of strangers strewn across the world. All these require a different approach. For a limited, live audience, you may choose to have no words at all, or very few in your slides, so that the audience really engages with what you are saying. For slideshows which are given live at first, but then will be posted online for later review, the full speech could be included in the slide notes, or more words may be needed on the slides themselves. Or, you can allow your students access to the slide deck as you are speaking, if they are quick on the keys and you give them time after each slide to type their own notes. If you plan on making a presentation that is only viewed, and not heard, you can safely ignore the advice about sentences on slides.

Making better slide shows can help your students retain more information, and give them opportunities for review that they may not otherwise have. Also, if you are in a position to teach students about how they can make good slideshows, please share this information with them! Let’s grow a new generation of thoughtful deck builders.

It’s go time! Startup tabs in Google Chrome

If I were a bettin’ man*, I’d bet you’d like to have a personal assistant. Someone to do the time consuming tasks that you’d rather not bother with. One task that I’ve relegated to my personal assistant, Google Chrome, is opening all of the websites I know I’ll need every day.

Once I get to my classroom, after taking off my coat and putting my lunch in the refrigerator, my first official order of business is to get on my computer. I click the Chrome icon, and these tabs pop up: my email, grade book, Google Classroom, and Google Drive.

If you want a specific set of websites to appear each morning for you too, you can follow the steps outlined in the slideshow below. Let me know if you have any questions!


I’m curious. Comment below the websites that you use every day!

*I’m not much of a gambler, and not at all a man.

Argh! I needed that tab!

Ctrl + Shift + T

Ever accidentally close a tab and actually still need it? I make that mistake daily. Ctrl + Shift + T is like a magic wand that returns the tab to my screen and smooths my knitted brow. You can use it to get back up to 10 tabs! Try it in Chrome or Firefox.

Ninja teacher tip: Use it when a student suspiciously closes a tab and looks around to see if anyone noticed.