Diigo: Chrome Extension We Love (Google-a-Day)

If a Kindle and a Kurweil 3000 had a baby, they’d make Diigo library. Diigo is one of my favorite online learning tools for middle school and high school students.

What it Does

Diigo library lets you:

  • highlight (in multiple colors)
  • add sticky notes
  • share pages
  • share notes
  • add tags
  • compile all of your notes & highlights in you “Diigo library”
  • save pages to “read later”
  • screen capture

and that’s all free (they also have Premium Features, but I’ve never felt the need to explore those since there’s so much functionality as is).

When should I use Diigo library?

All! The! Time!

It makes a very effective research tool; students can research a topic of interest (from any website), and highlight important facts, write notes about their thoughts, and compile this information in their Diigo library, which will make it easy for them to write a research paper afterwards.

To help organize notes, students an add tags or save notes to different lists.

Collaborative research is made more fun and possible through Diigo. Students can form a “Group,” then share specific notes, sets of notes, or pages with their peers. Want to mix it up and do a Jigsaw activity? That’s okay too. You can always add other students to notes (double the information!).

Any reading comprehension activity is made more engaging (and active) by using Diigo. Students can add notes with questions or predictions, use highlights for facts vs. opinions about a topic, and share notes or ideas with peers. Encourage students to use Diigo not just for strictly academic research, but for any topic of interest to them.

Cornelius Minor is big on creating a classroom library of information that’s interesting to the students then & there. Diigo is a perfect way to create shared reading activities through technology. Students can be encouraged to comment, question, or highlight interesting passages on any website.


Why I Love It

Once you download it from the Chrome Store, Diigo “lives” in your extensions (on the top right of your browser). Thereafter, any time you highlight something, the annotation tools pop up near the highlight. You can also click the icon in your toolbar and select other features.

Below are some shots of Diigo “in action” on a National Geographic site about penguins. Click any picture to enlarge.



in line

In-the-moment easy annotation



in the toolbar

In the toolbar




Annotations can also wait in the corner


know what's highlighted

Know what’s already been annotated


collaborating with a group

Share comments with a group


Below are two examples of libraries, which demonstrate how highlights & notes live there together, in harmony. Once again, click to enlarge.

Texting bans

Diigo library of an Atlantic article about texting bans

Wind power

Diigo library of a National Geographic article about Wind Power (where I’ve commented on pros & cons, and asked questions)



Best Technology Tools for the Classroom

This week was a holiday week, so I took a break from my Google-a-Day posts to let you know about a Jedi Mind Trick, and share an oldie-but-goodie. I’d shared this list with several educators, but never formally published it before. So, here they are!


From K to 12 and Math to Science, there seems to be a technological tool for everything! But what’s the most Useful? Customizable? User-friendly? Below, I list my favorite free-or-cheap tools.


For quick assessments

Why waste paper, time on marking, and the risk of you dog eating your students’ homework? Get immediate results about where your students are (also known as formative assessment) to be able to better target your lessons.

  • Edmodo and Google Forms both allow you to create diverse question types and give quizzes to multiple students at one time. Both collect and store results in accessible ways.
  • Jeopardy: a more public form of collecting information about your students’ knowledge, motivate your students with this make-your-own Jeopardy game. You can fill in the boxes with vocabulary words or short answer questions, and it allows for team play as well.


Reading & Writing

What better way to engage your students than having them interact with their reading? Research demonstrates that teaching reading comprehension strategies has a strong effect on reading, and technology can help (Shanahan et al., 2010).

  • Visualizing & Summarizing: Anything from Google Image Search to using imdb to cast actors in roles in your books is a valuable visualization tool. On top of that, you can use pixlr or Over to create movie posters or other visuals, and photopeach, animoto, or storybird to make slideshows that allow for visualizing and summarizing.
  • Organizing: The following sites and apps have interactive graphic organizers that allow your students to organize their ideas in a visual way. These can be valuable as a summarizing tool, a “making connections” tool, a questioning tool, or for use during the pre-writing stage. Websites like holt and readwritethink have multiple graphic organizers to choose from, and my favorite apps are: kidspiration, inspiration, corkulous, tools4students.



As students get older, they are required to do more and more research. This requires lots of organization and tools that support writing dreaded bibliographies or works cited pages.

  • Easybib and NoodleTools are both excellent sources for creating simple works cited pages, and have places to write notes from your reading as you go along.
  • For those with media literacy that can distinguish helpful sites from uninformed sites, Diigo Library is a wonderful tool that allows students to annotate websites. Diigo lets students highlight and add post-its to websites, and all of their notes end up in their Diigo library for easy access.
  • For those without sufficient internet know-how, teachers can create Google Sites with information that they know to be valuable and useful. This video tutorial or this step-by-step guide teach you the basics.



There are numerous math tools that are targeted at specific tasks, which can be useful. My favorites are usually apps or websites that address multiple skills (so students become familiar with them), and which allow for data collection. Most math apps and sites are also helpful for their provision of  “immediate, targeted, and timely feedback,” which is the most effective type of feedback for student progress (Goodwin & Miller, 2012).

  • The site iXL allows teachers to track their students, and any incorrect answers are immediately explained, so students can learn as they practice.
  • In the app store, the McGraw Hill apps and the iTooch elementary and middle school math apps are fun, interactive, and informative.


One-stop shop

Overwhelmed by the list above? Want sites with several, diverse tools all in one place? Along with readwritethink, iTooch, and iXL, the following sites cover multiple disciplines:

  • PowerMyLearning links to math, language, science, and arts interactive games. Highly motivating with lots of choices!
  • Noodle links to video tutorials across subject domains, which can help students learn, then practice their skills (Full disclosure: I write for the site).


Happy 21st Century Teaching!

Jedi Mind Trick 1

A former colleague of mine used to talk about “Jedi Mind Tricks.” It’s that thing where you make the students think they’re choosing something, but they’re not. Yes, it’s sneaky, but it works, makes students feel empowered, and I’m always well-meaning when I do it (I swear!).

Here’s my first Jedi Mind Trick that I learned from Dr. George McCloskey. It’s intended to teach self-regulation.

Student (after writing 1 paragraph): It’s done!

You: Do you think that’s your best work?

Student: Yeah.

You: Do you think your teachers would think that’s your best work?

Student: Are you saying it’s not good?

You: I didn’t say anything about what you wrote. I’m asking you, ‘Do you think your teachers would think that’s your best work?’

Student erases paragraph, and writes 3 pages.


It was so simple, I almost felt bad for the kid. Just to be clear, his revised version wasn’t only longer, it showed a greater depth of understanding and creativity. He knew that his first attempt wasn’t his best work, but it took making him think about his teachers to make him up his game. If you are the student’s teacher, you can simply ask, “Do you think I think that’s your best work?” You are still not evaluating his work, just asking him to think about what you would say. This puts you in a student’s head (hence “Jedi Mind Trick”), but with practice, your student can use this tool to self-monitor their writing.

Google Search for Educators: Weekly Roundup (Google-a-Day)

Hello, fellow Educators!

I felt like my week’s tips were a little bit all over the place, but also that there were some good tips in there! Allow me to summarize the tips that I shared, with links to the articles that go into each tool in detail.

Search Google by Time to help with current events, tracking events, and learning about the (relatively recent) past “in real time.”

Use Google Advanced Search to:

Use Google’s Search Bar to:

Happy Searching!

Google Search Bar Hacks 2 (Google-a-Day)

Part 2 of our series on Google Search bar hacks. On Tuesday, you learned how to use the search bar to search for exact phrases, eliminate words, or find variations on a phrase. On Thursday (yesterday), you learned how to use the search bar to search Google by file type and a specific site or domain. Today, you will learn 3 more Google Search Bar Hacks:

1. Searching when you are missing parts of a phrase

This was a new one for me, too! You can use asterisks (*) as a placeholder in searching for phrases (remember to use quotation marks, though!). For example:

keep calm and * *

Will show me results for anything that begins with “Keep Calm And” and is followed by two words. The results all start with “carry on,” but many of the spin-offs that have popped up, as well.

asterisk keep calm

asterisk as a placeholder (click to enlarge)


2. Searching a range

If you are searching for something with a range of numbers (e.g. dates, prices), you can use ellipses (…) to include everything in that range. For example,

president USA 1980…2014

will yield all presidents between 1980 and today. As you can see, 2 out of the top 3 search results are for presidents that were not in office in 1980 or 2014, so you know Google included all years in between as well.

ellipses dates

ellipses for numbers (click to enlarge)


3. Definitions

Simply write the word define, followed by a colon, and google will define the word for you. For example


will give you a definition at the top of the page, then links to dictionary sites, below.

define egregious

Define egregious (click to enlarge)

Check back tomorrow for a synopsis of the week’s search tips! Next week’s theme will be web extensions!

Google Search Bar Hacks 1 (Google-a-Day)

As promised, below are some ways to search Google by time, reading level, site/domain, usage rights, or file type without using Google Advanced Search. Most are search bar hacks, hence the title of this post! Tomorrow, I will post even more things that you can do in the search bar (other than searching, of course).

Searching by Time

Please see Monday’s article about searching by time. This can  help you search for the most recent information, or search from information from a specific time (as part of research, how recent events unfolded, out of curiosity, etc.).

Searching By Reading Level

The process for this is very similar to searching by time. First, you search in your search bar for what interests you. Then, you click next to “Search Tools,” and Click on the “All Results” drop down menu.

Search by reading level

Searching by Reading level (click to enlarge)

Reading Level is one of the items. Click it & select your reading level of choice!

Click reading level

Selecting Reading Level (click to enlarge)


Searching by File Type

This one’s a search bar hack! You will need to know the file type’s abbreviation for this (usually 3-4 letters, e.g. pptxls, or pdf for Powerpoint, Excel Spreadsheet, or PDF, respectively).

You need to write your search term, then the word filetype: (with the colon) then the 3 letters. For example, if I want to found powerpoint presentations on early literacy, I would type:

early literacy filetype:ppt

View my search results below (all PowerPoints!).

early literacy ppt

Early Literacy Powerpoint file search (click to enlarge)

Searching by Domain

Simply type in your search term, then the word site: (with the colon!) and then the site or domain you would like. For example, if you want students looking up Dust Bowl on history.com, you would write:

dust bowl site:history.com

You can see my search & search results (all on history.com) below:

history.com dust bowl

If you would like students to look at New York school enrollment numbers on any .edu site, you would write:

New York school enrollment site:.edu

You can see my search & search results (all on .edu sites) below:

new york enrollment .edu

It’s so simple!

Searching by Usage Rights

This one is similar to Time & Reading Level.

Once you’ve searched an image (google.com/images or in your search bar, and then clicked “Images”), you will click on Search Tools, then “Usage Rights,” then select for the purposes you will be using the image for. I actually had to select that in order to insert this image below:

dolphin usage rights

Dolphin image usage rights (Click to enlarge)


Google Advanced Search 2 (Google-a-Day)

Welcome back! This post is going to be chock full of information! The bottom half of Google Advanced Search has almost too many features (just kidding… there’s no such thing!). Read on to see explanations of the “how” and “why” of searching by time, by reading level, by file type, and usage rights.

Google Search by Time

Why Search Google By Time in Advanced Search?

To get the most recent news about current events

How to Search Google By Time?

  1. Go to Google.com/advanced_search
  2. Where it says: Last Updated, select your specifications (past 24 hours? past week? past year?)
Search Last Update

Last Update (click to enlarge)

You can also search by time like this.

Why Search Google By Reading Level?

To allow your students to better understand the content they are reading.

How Search Google By Reading Level?

  1. Go to Google.com/advanced_search
  2. Where it says: Reading Level, select your specifications (usually this will be “basic”)
Search Reading Level

Reading Level (click to enlarge)

Although the jury is still a little bit out about how accurate the reading levels are (see: this article about the limitations of Google Reading Levels), “basic” is intended for middle school and early high school reading levels.

Why Search Google By File Type?

Different file types have different types of functionality. Although flash files are a little out of date, if you limit your searches to .swf (Shockwave Flash) files, you tend to get an animation or a game (which you can often project on an interactive white board or SMARTBoard). If you limit your searches to .ppt (Powerpoint) files, then you’ll get a presentation, which is sometimes easier for students to understand than an article. I haven’t explored Google Earth enough (yet!), but there are also two, different Google Earth files that you can download, which can help with Geography units.

How to Search Google By File Type

  1. Go to Google.com/advanced_search
  2. Where it says: File Type, select your specification (Google Earth File? Excel file? Powerpoint? Flash game?)
Search File Type

Search File Type (Click to Enlarge)

Why Search Google By Site or Domain?

En route to true media literacy, some educators find it helpful to tell their students to trust primarily certain types of domains (e.g. .edu or .gov sites). By limiting searches to those types of sites, you tend to get more reliable information (if not always the most recent).

Searching within a site is another good method of avoiding random Google searches. Large sites like history.com or NationalGeographic.com have plenty of information, but not always in the easiest positions. Lastly, searching within-sites can also help you confine your reading levels.

How to Search Google By Site or Domain

  1. Go to Google.com/advanced_search
  2. Where it says: “Site or Domain”, specify which domain type (e.g .edu or .gov) you would like your students to search, or a specific site (e.g. history.com, nationalgeographic.com)
Search Site or Domain

Search Site or Domain (click to enlarge)


Why Search Google By Usage Rights?

It is important to model and instruct students about usage rights. If you have a class blog, or students are to publish any of their work, provide a quick lesson about image plagiarism (presumably, they will already be familiar with this term for writing research). If you are going to assign a visual manipulation (e.g. photoshop) assignment, be particularly mindful of being able to alter images.

How to Search Google By Usage Rights

  1. Go to Google.com/advanced_search
  2. Where it says: “Usage Rights”, select your specification
Search Usage Rights

Usage Rights (click to enlarge)



Bonus tip: each of the areas outlined above can also be searched for straight from your search box (without going to google.com/advanced_search). To find out how, check out tomorrow’s post!

Google Advanced Search 1 (Google-a-Day)

Google Advanced search is amazing. If you haven’t used it (yet!), get ready to make your life a whole lot more interesting, easy, and intentional!

Educators worry about setting their students free on the world wide web. Like any web, some of our little bugs can get stuck or caught in the web. We want our students to be the spiders – to help build or climb on the web, to use it productively.

Google Advanced Search is one way teachers and students can gain control of the internet. Here is your first baby step.

Advanced Search

Google Advanced Search (click to enlarge)


There are so many features that you can alter that this will be a two-part post. For the first part, I will focus on the top half of the Advanced Search. The bottom half will blow your mind, though, so come back tomorrow!

You can go to google.com/advanced_search, and search by:

  • all these words:
  • this exact word or phrase:
  • any of these words:
  • none of these words:
  • numbers ranging from:
Find pages with...

Find pages with… (click to enlarge)

If you look on the right of the pages, however, Google is nice enough to give you you hacks (or shortcuts) for your Google Search-ing.

Google Search Bar hacks

If you want to search an exact word or phrase, you can search in the search bar and put the exact phrase in quotation marks. For example, I don’t want hits that have any of the following words in it: people, by, the, for. I want searches that have them in a specific order, such as “for the people, by the people.”

If you want to eliminate certain words, simply put a – (minus sign) before the word or phrase that you don’t want to appear in your searches. For example, if I want to learn about whales, but I don’t want the word fish to appear in any of the hits, then I would simply search for: whale -fish. You can also eliminate a whole phrase, for which you would use quotation marks, like so: dogs -“Jack Russell”.

whale -fish

Searching while eliminating a phrase (click to enlarge)

If you want to search for variations of a word or phrase you can write OR in between the search terms. For example, what you if you want to search for these things?

rubber bands

rubber band or elastic band?

You can write elastic bands OR rubber bands (since they are dialectal variations, but mean the same thing), then you can write OR in between.


Sort by Time (Google-a-Day)

My first google-a-day tip focusing on Search Features focuses on sorting by time. Although we can’t control it or limit it in real life, we can on Google!

Why would I want to sort my Google Searches by time?

  • the primary use is to get the most recent news about current events
  • you can also use it as a way of seeing how “recent” (in the last 10 years) events have unfolded “in real time”
  • for curiosity! What was happening in the news the day your students were born? (Most will be internet natives, so this will be meaningful)

How do I sort my Google searches by time?

1. Do a regular google search (in your search bar). Google tends to prioritize “news” (aka new results) if you’re searching for a current event. For non-work purposes, it’s important for me to have the most recent information on my fantasy football starters, so let’s use a weekly football check-in as an example of a “current event.”

Google prioritizes news for current events. Click to enlarge

Google prioritizes news for current events.
(Click to enlarge)

2. Click on Search Tools (to the right, just under the search bar)

search tools

Search Tools (Click to enlarge)

3. Click “Any Time” (to the left). Then, select your dates. For news, maybe past 24 hours or past week is the only type of information you are looking for. If you’re searching for recent research, past year might be sufficient, or even past 3-5 years.


Select Timing. (Click to enlarge)

5. For custom dates, simply input When you’d like to search “to” and “from.” You can have both days be the same to reveal what was happening on a specific, notable day. Select a week or two weeks to see how a news story unfolded. For example, you can search by crucial dates unfolding in the Michael Brown shooting. What was the news reporting on each day?

Custom Range

Selecting Custom Range (Click to enlarge)



This week in Google-a-Day

Calendars: can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

This week’s 5 google-a-day were all about calendars. View each by clicking the links below:

  1. How to have multiple calendars in Google Calendar
  2. How to share calendars in Google Calendar
  3. How to add an attachment in Google Calendar
  4. How to add reminders in Google Calendar
  5. How to use Google as an LMS or Planner (for posting and sharing assignments)