Kami: The PDF Tool You Deserve, But Not the One You Have Right Now

I recently became a Kami Hero (basically a bonafide Kami user), and I’m excited to share just a few of the marvelous things it has to offer.  I don’t really even remember when or how I first ran into Kami, but I find myself using or recommending someone else use it at least a few times a week.  Below are just some of my favorite uses of Kami, but I don’t even come close to a full list of Kami’s capabilities.  As with any new program, the best way to learn is to play, experiment, make mistakes, and try again.  Luckily for you, my students have served as guinea pigs, so that your students can augment and modify their learning with Kami.

PDF Editor and Annotator

In its simplest form, Kami allows the user to easily highlight and comment on PDF documents – please pay close attention to that word: easilyThere’s no converting, resaving as a new document, emailing from one account to

another, etc.  It’s easy, plain and simple. This alone was enough to win me over.  I’m not sure if the general public realizes how much annotating goes on in an English classroom, and as much as I love Google Docs, ain’t nobody got time to copy the text of a PDF and paste and reformat and rearrange it in a Google Doc before students can easily annotate or make comments the text.  Copying and pasting from a PDF is one of my least favorite, but sometimes necessary, tasks when it comes to using technology in my classroom.  Kami has all but eliminated that tedious task.

To take highlighting and annotating to the next level, enter Google Classroom.

There are a couple of ways I like to use these tools with my students.  First, by clicking “Make a copy for each student,” students can annotate digitally and then turn those annotations in for the teacher to assess (as shown above).  I also like to use the “Students can edit file” to allow multiple students to annotate on the same document at the same time.  Both of these work pretty similarly to the same functions when using a Google Doc, so nothing really ground-breaking there, albeit Kami does add the convenience of doing these things on a PDF.  In the example here, you can see the annotations of several students and you can see all of the students who were on the document at the bottom.  AND, you can make voice comments and annotations!  Come on – VOICE ANNOTATIONS!  How many students are going to jump all over that business?  Who wants accommodations for special needs students or for ESL students? Everyone, that’s who! Frankly, voice comments are the way things are headed, and I’m happy to jump on that train with Kami.

The Text-box Tool…

is perfect for writing on those PDF-only graphic organizers that seemingly everyone on Teachers Pay Teachers provides.  There is nothing more annoying than finding the perfect graphic organizer for group work or scaffolding or just…organizing than to realize there is no easy way to make it digital.  With Kami, students can use text boxes to complete the assignment collaboratively or individually.

Equations, Shapes, and Drawings

Okay, I’m not a math or science teacher, but these next few tools seem like they would be invaluable for those

classes: equations, drawings, and shapes.  First of all, if you’ve taught longer than five years, you remember a time when finding any sort of equation editor was nearly impossible, and when you did find it, it was the worst thing you’d ever used in your life.  Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in the past few years with Chrome extensions like EquatIO (can I get an AMEN for all of those amazing people over at texthelp.com).  Kami is just another tool that allows teachers and students to integrate equations, shapes, and drawings into PDFs.  Again, not a math or science teacher, but Mr. Pearsall (also known as Mr. Math and Science) feels pretty excited about this aspect of Kami.

Text to Speech

As a Kami Hero, I get access to some extra Kami goodies that only come with paid subscriptions, namely the signature and text to speech!!  You guys, TEXT TO SPEECH (I’ll come back to signature in a minute)!!!  Not only will Kami read the text of a PDF, it will read it in several different voices and…AND…are you ready?  I don’t think you’re ready…AND will translate the text to any language supported by Google Translate!!!  Are you kidding me??  How amazing is that?  Think of all the uses for ESL or World Languages or struggling readers or basically ANYONE!   This is a feature that has been needed for AGES, but no one seemed to want to put in the time or effort to execute it. Kami, for this, educators and parents salute you!



Back to the signature: it is exactly what it sounds like.  You have the option to draw your signature using your mouse, your phone, or you may upload an image.  So, yes, this works well for signing PDF documents, which all legal documents seem to be these days, but I’m thinking like an educator here.  I’m thinking adding my “signature” Bitmoji to everything!  Or creating my own personal “branded” signature to attach after I’ve made my comments on a student’s work.  I don’t know, doing something a little “out of the box” never hurt anyone.  In the meantime, please don’t judge me based on the best signature I could muster using the mouse on my desktop.

Create an Assignment

Kami also integrates seamlessly with Google Classroom, and the teacher license allows teachers to create a Google Classroom assignment right from Kami, which, as I’ve said many times in this post, adds convenience and ease of use.  Teachers know anything that makes life easier is something to treasure!  The “notification” feature fits right in with Kami’s use in Google Classroom, in my opinion.  Users have the option to be notified (either by email or in browser) when someone else edits the PDF.  I love notifications like this because it signals me to go have a look, and, if I choose the email option, that notification stays in my inbox for as long as it takes me to get around to checking the document – very important.  Without notifications to help me focus, I’m just swimming around aimlessly in the digital sea.

Bonus: Rocketbook App-Smash!

Have you guys seen or used Rocketbook? No?!?  Well, you need to get yourself over to getrocketbook.com and check it out RIGHT NOW!  Rocketbook is a super-cool way to take your analog notes, drawings, writing, etc. to the digital realm.  You can use Rocketbook to write or draw, then upload your work as a PDF right to your Google Drive!!  So amazing, right?  Enter Kami.  Now that you’ve got that work up in the digital stratosphere, Kami allows you to comment on, add to, or modify that work!  Kami will even turn your written notes into a typed document!

Kami is one of the best new(ish) tools out there.  Let me know how you use Kami below!

So Much Awesome: My 6 Favorite Chrome Extensions

Friends, I have a list a mile long of cool stuff I’m dying to show you; the problem is that I don’t know how to choose which comes first!  So, instead of choosing, I’m going to give you a list of my six favorite chrome extensions.  These are extensions I use almost every day, and that make my teaching, grading, and learning life a million times easier and more efficient.

  1. Checkmark

    Image result for checkmarkclassThis little tool from EdTechTeam has saved me countless hours as an English teacher.  Checkmark allows a teacher (or student) to use canned comments when reading and reviewing a Google Document.  Some of the comments that I use most often include: check for fragment, check punctuation, clarify your idea/meaning, detail needed, discussion needed, evidence needed, and check citation.  Before Checkmark, the problem was that highlighting and making the comment took quite a bit of time when multiplied by hundreds (thousands?) of comments over the course of a semester.  The ease and efficiency of a one-click comment makes all the difference.  If I’m scoring written work, Checkmark is a necessity.

  2. Clipular

    Clipular is invaluable when creating “how to” guides, presentations, and blog posts (like this one).  A person can screenshot or take partial screenshots, then edit them by adding effects, stickers, drawing, text, in addition to all of the standard photo edits (brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness).

  3. Bitmoji

    I use Bitmoji to give “stickers” to my students.  The simple fact is that kids love getting rewards – digital or physical.  When grading, I keep the Bitmoji extension open, and award stickers just like I would when I used paper in my classroom.  I try to tailor stickers to the student’s personality, and, to be honest, I may spend a little more time than I should choosing just the right one.  My favorite thing is to choose Bitmojis that are nothing like me in real life…or maybe they are…

  4. Whisper

    Have you ever given directions, taken questions, and set a class off on an important assignment only to remember you forgot to mention one very important part of the assignment?  It happens to me all the time. All. The. Time. 

    Like every day.  Image result for whisper class edtechteamLuckily, EdTechTeam came to the rescue once again, and the solution to all my problems is Whisper (well, maybe not all, but this one at least).  When I heard about Whisper, I immediately asked our tech department push it out to all of our teachers and students – that’s how much I love it.  Now, when I inevitably forget that one important part of the directions, I can simply type a quick message in Whisper to discreetly notify all of my students.  Students will receive the message in a pop up on their screen that is a minimal disruption to their work.  I can also redirect students easily by selecting only their name in Whisper, then sending them a one-on-one message.  All messages are saved in Whisper as well, so you have a record of everything you’ve sent!
  5. One-Click Timer

    Image result for one click timerOne-click timer is a tool I’ve been using more and more lately.  I’m finding that this time of year, my students are having a particularly hard time staying focused; therefore, when my students get a little distracted, a “one-minute warning” makes all the difference in getting them back on task.
    On-Click Timer is yet another tool that makes my classroom more productive by keeping my students and myself on track and focused.

  6. Grammarly

    If you aren’t using Grammarly, you may be making grammar mistakes you didn’t even know existed! Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but Grammarly really is an invaluable tool for both student and teacher. 

    Image result for grammarly I was lucky enough to convince my administration to purchase a site license, but even the free version is quite helpful.  I encourage my students to not only use Grammarly to check their essays for superficial mistakes but to also turn on the extension so that it can check their emails and forms.  Grammarly puts a stop to those pesky lower-case “i’s” that kids are so want to use (even my 12th-graders!).

7 MORE ways Nearpod Will Improve Your Teaching: Activity Slides

 In my previous two posts, I raved about Nearpod as a presentation platform.  The awesomeness of Nearpod doesn’t stop with the content slides.  Honestly, I haven’t even gotten to the best part!  Not only does Nearpod engage students through its amazing presentation tools, but it also allows them to interact directly with the teacher and their classmates during the presentation!  The Activity slides are the GAME CHANGING tools that you are going to love!

If you’ve taught longer than five years, you’ve been there – lecturing away with a presentation on the screen behind you as students stare blankly ahead. Then you think, I need to engage these kids – oooh, I’ll ask a question!  I’m even going to use my popsicle sticks to pick a random student!  I’m such a clever educator. Nothing against the popcicle sticks – I love a good random selector, but the moment you call on Johnny, the other students tune you out.  Once they realize they don’t have to be accountable for the answer to your question, so many of them just shut off their brains. Yes, even when you wait until after the question is asked to call on the student. Nearpod takes the tendency toward student complacency out of the equation.

The Activity slides allow all students to respond to questions, comments, or suggestions posed by the presenter.  You read that right – every single student responds. When we use Nearpod in my class, students know that I expect every one of them to actively participate in the lesson – right then and there within the presentation. The presenter can not only see the responses as they are given during the presentation, they can also view the compiled data after the presentation to analyze and use to guide future instruction.

So, without further ado, here are SEVEN MORE ways Nearpod can engage every student, in every lesson.

  1. Open-Ended Questions

    The Open-Ended Question is definitely my go-to for English class.  I use these primarily for anticipation guides and formative assessments.  Anticipation guides are a staple for introducing new concepts in my classroom.  I often ask a series of questions to get a discussion going that is related to our next unit of study.  For example, when introducing Animal Farm by George Orwell, I give a series of statements to which students respond. 

    *Life in the USA would be perfect if everyone were equal.
    *Do you believe that total equality is possible?
    *What freedoms to we take for granted in the USA?
    *What freedoms would you be willing to give up for the sake of the greater good?

    These questions obviously encourage students to begin to consider the issues found in the novella, but the best part is that I get to see the answer of every single student –  
    Not just the outspoken ones or the extroverts or whoever it is that answers first every time a question is asked – everyone!  In the same vein, it is invaluable to my teaching to be able to do quick learning checks to see where every student stands at any point in a lesson.  One of the newer features in Nearpod allows the presenter to insert any slide on the fly, so an impromptu formative assessment that shows the level of understanding for every student is a click away. And don’t forget: you will have the data in the reports that are viewable after the presentation is complete.
  2. Sharing Answers

    One of the cool features of the activity slide is that the teacher can Share the answers given by students to the class (with or without the name attached).  Even the most reluctant students sit up a bit taller when I share their good answers. Sometimes they even announce, “Hey!! That’s mine!”  A boost of confidence for a student is always welcome, and you get to reap the benefits of that boost.  Win-win!
  3. Polls

    The Poll is another activity that works well for anticipation guides.  Students, however, have a kind of love/hate relationship with the poll questions.  They get two options – yes/no, true/false, agree/disagree – and they often agonize about the gray area.  Fortunately, because the Poll is so…polarized, significant discussions about the gray area can emerge when students see the results.
  4. Quizzes

    Quizzes are perfect for exit tickets and formative or summative assessments.  Asking a few pointed multiple-choice questions at the end of a lesson can not only show the teacher the levels of understanding in the class, but it also shows each student where they stand in regards to the objective of the the lesson.  Inserting one of these quick quizzes in the middle of a presentation will also enable the teacher to revisit any concepts that are unclear before continuing with the lesson.  We all know that formative assessment in teaching is key, and this little activity gives teachers the data they need to feed their lesson planning and aids them in adjusting the lesson as needed in the moment.
  5. Draw

    Everyone likes to have a little fun even when faced with the rigorous curriculum of the common core standards.  For Nearpod, there is no activity students find more fun than Draw.  Of course, there are some questions and answers that lend themselves perfectly to this option, but anytime a teacher uses Draw, it’s a good time.  Students love drawing, and they love seeing other students’ drawings.   Draw is especially entertaining when the students use Chromebooks or laptops because drawing with a mouse is much more difficult than drawing on a tablet.  The results are often pretty ridiculous, but they still show the teacher the students’ understanding. Draw is a crowd-pleaser every time – trust me on this one.
  6. Collaborate

    One of the newer activities in Nearpod is Collaborate.  If you’ve used Padlet, Collaborate works much the same way in regards to brainstorming and sharing ideas.  In Collaborate, teachers post a question or comment, and students can post answers much like a post-it note on a wall.  Students can respond with text or pictures, or both.  I really love this option when we need to throw out a bunch of ideas at once – brainstorming, showing previous knowledge before a lesson, or showing what they’ve learned after a lesson.
  7. Fill in the Blank and Memory

    These two activities are perfect for recall questions.  The Fill in the Blank works more like matching, so it works well for a review of vocabulary introduced in the lesson.  I’m sure you know the concept of Memory, and it works in the way you would expect.  I haven’t used this option, but I can imagine how it could be useful in much the same way as Fill in the Blank.

Nearpod is a staple in my classroom.  In my opinion, the student engagement paired with the instant data collection makes for an invaluable teaching tool. Honestly, the possibilities are endless, this will certainly not be my last post on the subject – Nearpod is still growing and improving its platform.  I’m excited to see the next update! 

7 Ways Nearpod Tops Other Presentation Platforms

In my last post, you may recall that I am firm in my belief that Nearpod is the number one student engagement tool that you may not be using.  Or maybe you are using it, but you know there you haven’t discovered its full potential.  This second part of the three-part Nearpod series details the amazing and wonderful ways that Nearpod excels above other presentation platforms.

If you remember the days that Microsoft PowerPoint was the pinnacle of technology in the classroom, you will also remember the blank stares, the drool, the sea of glazed eyes that were the result of those PowerPoint lectures.  I tried everything to make those presentations more interesting, or more engaging at least.  The best strategy in my toolbox was to have two versions of the presentation: teacher and student.  

I felt so clever leaving out keywords in the student version, thinking that if they paid enough attention to write down those keywords, they would have to pick up the rest of the information, right?  Wrong. So, very, very wrong.  A lecture is a lecture even when there is a pretty picture on the projector screen behind you as you speak.

Enter Nearpod. This tool is a GAME-CHANGER for student engagement in the world of presentation platforms.  Here are SEVEN ways that Nearpod will improve your teaching, your student engagement, and maybe even your professional learning network (PLN).

  1. Nearpodize” your Google Slides presentations.
    One of the biggest problems with trying something new is that you’ve already done the thing in one form, and there is no way in h-e-double-hockeysticks you are doing it again.  I understand, I really do.  We all have presentations or lessons that we’ve spent an exhaustive amount of time to get just right.
    Luckily, Google Slides and Nearpod paired up and made a quick and easy Chrome extension called “Nearpodize” that will make you and your perfect presentation happy.  “Nearpodize” turns your beautiful slides into a Nearpod by simply clicking the  extension in your toolbar.  Done. You now have a Nearpod presentation that was once a Slides presentation.  Don’t worry, your Slides are still there, safe and sound in your Google Drive.  That’s about as quick and easy as it gets, friends.  No more excuses! 
  2. Create slides in Nearpod, too.
    Nearpod also offers its own slide creator.  In its simplest form, users can insert text, pictures, gifs, and videos.  I like to use this option to insert stand-alone pictures or gifs to illustrate a point made verbally or on the previous or subsequent slide.
  3. Slideshow
    In addition to transforming your slides from Google or PowerPoint, Nearpod also allows you to insert a separate slideshow into the Nearpod presentation itself.  This could be used as a way to either show a quick, but relevant, tangent to the lesson or to provide a more descriptive explanation of a particularly difficult concept.
  4. 3D
    The next three tools are what take Nearpod above and beyond any other presentation platform.  Within the Nearpod library are over 90 3D models.  All of the models are interactive and allow students to move and manipulate them in any way they want.  At a glance, there are cells, black holes, body systems, architecture, animals, and more. In the example here, I have zoomed into the chest cavity of a human – those are bones and stuff!  So cool.  These 3D renderings are the perfect hands-on experience when literal “hands-on” isn’t an option.
  5. PhET
    My husband (Mr. Pearsall), who happens to teach math and physics (and is not easily impressed), found the PhET tool remarkably accurate and useful for experiments and illustration of physics stuff.  He actually said, “Hey, that’s pretty good,” which, in Mr. Pearsall terms, means that this sim tool is freaking AMAZING! If I knew anything about physics or math, I could probably describe the extent of the amazing-ness, but we’re just going to have to defer to Mr. Pearsall’s whole-hearted praise on this one. 
  6. Virtual Field Trips
    The third tool that has been added relatively recently is the “Virtual Field Trip.”  Think Google StreetView, but times 100.  My teammates and I have personally used these to help our students tour colleges as they search for the perfect place to spend the next four (or five) years of their life.  Our foreign language teachers also rave about the locations around the world that are available for students to explore.
  7. Twitter
     Finally, one of the most interesting feature when creating slides in Nearpod is the feature that allows you to insert a stream directly from Twitter using a hashtag or Twitter handle.  Teaching an astronomy lesson? Link up @NASA or #astronomy.  Shakespeare? #iambicpentameter or @The_Globe.  Talk about real-world connections!!

Still not convinced that Nearpod is the tool you’ve been missing your whole life?  Next time, I’ll dive into the another way Nearpod engages students.  Yes, you read that correctly – there are even more reasons that this tool is my number one pick for student engagement.

Nearpod: The Best Resource You May Not Be Using

December 13, 2012 is the day that I first registered to use Nearpod.  Five years ago today, the possibilities and ideas that came with this tool poured out of my brain and into many, many future presentations.

 I have touted the capabilities and potential of using Nearpod since day one.  Honestly, I’m sort of shocked that more people in my building don’t use it.  I can count on one hand the regular users, my grade-level English Department buddies being three of those five fingers.

Speaking of, I teach high-school English. There’s always a new novel to introduce, a new grammar concept to learn, a new essay to tweak.  Nearpod is my go-to for all of these.  You want an anticipation guide? Nearpod.  You want formative assessment? Nearpod.  You want short clips or videos to enhance the lesson? Nearpod.  Heck, you want to know every kid’s favorite flavor of ice cream?  Nearpod’s got you covered there, too.  

Nearpod is THE universal tool for educators.  It takes Padlet, Socrative, YouTube, Chrome, Virtual Reality Tours, Twitter, and Google Slides (to name a few), and wraps them all up in one convenient little package for you and your students to enjoy.  Yes, you read that correctly – you can do ALL of that and more with ONE tool!  

No, I’m not employed by Nearpod, nor do I get any compensation from Nearpod to write this; I just L O V E this tool.  Okay, so, yes, I am a “Nearpod Certified Educator” (which is honestly not an easy accomplishment), and I am proud to promote any tool that works in the classroom.  And that’s just it, Nearpod works.  

The first series of posts for this edtech blog is all about Nearpod and its possibilities in your classroom.  I’m not just talking English teachers here; I’m talking about math (YES!), science, social studies…you name it, you got it.  Up first, I’ll share some awesome things you can do with Nearpod slides.