At Northern Buckeye, I’m the design guru among our team. We often joke about “Chris-ifying” things because I am so passionate about how things look and feel.

Last week, I wrote about the Lexend series of fonts which have been specially designed for increased readability. This week, I’d like to share some thoughts on color. Even as a designer, I have trouble with color. I don’t know what looks good together or which colors I should use on a project. I am going to showcase a few tools to help you with your color choices. read more

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Here is a sobering statistic:

How do we address this problem? One way is in our font choices.

In 1999, Bonnie Shaver-Troup, an educational therapist, observed that reading issues hid students’ true capability and intelligence.

She theorized that student reading performance could be improved by:

  • Using a sans-serif font to reduce cognitive noise;
  • Scaling of that font to improve potential for character recognition;
  • Hyper-expansion of the spacing in between characters, creating a greater lag time and reducing potential crowding and masking effects.

Shaver-Troup, along with educator and type designer Thomas Jockin, coordinated their efforts around one simple idea:

“A font, much like the prescription in a pair of eyeglasses, should change based on the reader’s unique needs.”

Shaver-Troup and Jockin collaborated in the development of seven fonts which provide for improvement in reading performance. read more

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“Zoom bombing” is when uninvited participants appear in a Zoom class with the primary purpose of causing chaos. To help mitigate the obtrusiveness, you may want to implement the following safety measures:

You will want to update the Zoom app and remind students and parents to do so, also. Zoom provides a pop-up notification when there is a new mandatory or optional update within 24 hours of signing-in. If you have the Zoom desktop client installed, you can check for updates by clicking on your profile image and then click Check for Updates.

If you use the “Recurring” Zoom feature, it will not provide as a unique ID. Because the same ID and settings are used, it may make it easier for uninvited participants to access.

By enabling the Waiting Room feature, students will not be able to join the Zoom call until admitted. The teacher/host will be able to review who wants access and admit one participant at a time or use the “Admit All” option.

You can remove participants or send them to the Waiting Room.

Once your students have joined the Zoom call, you can Lock the meeting. The Lock a Meeting feature will prevent unwanted guests from entering.

When students join using a parent account, the teacher/host can rename students from the chat rather than letting students rename themselves. By disabling the renaming feature, it removes the temptation for students to take on a different persona.

The Teacher/Host can always allow students to share their screens when needed.

By turning off the annotation and whiteboard features, participants will not be able to draw over the teacher’s presentation.

Do not share the meeting URL on social media so that uninvited guests will join the call. You may want to establish expectations with your students to not share the URL with people who are not in their class.

10. Hide Participant Profile Pictures in a Meeting 📷

When participants’ cameras are turned off, and the Hide Participant Profile Picture feature is enabled, only the students’ initials will show. The feature prevents the possibility of students sharing inappropriate images.

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In the past few months I have been doing a lot of training sessions in schools on the Kami tool. Some schools have adopted Kami as their distance learning tool of choice.

Kami is a digital classroom app that allows you to transform any existing document into an interactive learning experience.  Students can use the built in tools to write over the top of (annotate) documents that you share with them in google classroom.

The Kami website is located at

To get your students started with using Kami will depend on if you have the free or the paid version. I will describe the process for the free version and make mention of what the paid version brings to the table at the end.

At the heart of the Kami experience is the Kami Chrome Extension which can be added by going to the Chrome Web Store. School managed chromebooks may restrict this feature so your tech department may have to add the Kami app to the whitelist or push it out to student chromebooks.

Once installed the Kami extension will detect when you have a PDF open for preview in Google Classroom or Google Drive. A blue Kami icon will appear in the top right corner.

Alternatively you can use the open in menu and choose Annotate with Kami.

The first time you connect your account to Kami it will ask a bunch of questions as it gains access to your Google Drive so it can make changes to your PDF (the annotations) and save them to your Drive. Younger students will need help from the teacher to complete this first login.

Kami loads into a screen with a blue menu bar at the top and a black toolbar down the left side. The tools are clearly marked and the ones you will use the most include:

Select (arrow) 

Use this to select text boxes and other objects you add to the annotation.

Text Box (T icon)

Use this to create a text box to type over your document.

Drawing (paintbrush)

Use this for freehand drawings.

Eraser (eraser icon)

Remove annotations and drawings from the document.

Students will draw over the top of the PDF you share with them and when they are finished they use the Save Now button to save changes to Drive.
Once complete they close the Kami window and they will return to the PDF preview window.

The main difference between the free and paid version is in Google Classroom integration. In the free version, as a teacher you create a regular assignment for your students and share the PDF (make a copy for each student). Students open the PDF as described above, annotate and use the Save Now button to save changes.

In the paid version teachers will have a new Kami Assignment option in the create menu in Classroom. Students will have a Turn In button that lets them submit their assignment without having to return to Classroom. (Nice because turning in the assignment is something easy to forget).

Kami is worth a look if you need a way to put your worksheets into assignments for remote learning.

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You can personalize your Google Classroom by creating an animated banner. The animation can represent the unit or theme your students are studying. The animation will add interest and excitement to your Classroom page.

I prefer using free software to create. By using Google Slides AND Screencastify, you can create an animated image, record the screen, and download it as a GIF. Upload the file to your Google Classroom theme. The banner image will be animated. Super cool!

Follow the below steps to create an animated Google Classroom banner:

Design Animation in Google Slides

  1. Open a new Google Slides presentation.

  2. Change the size of the slides by clicking on File => Page Setup => Select Custom => Enter 800 x 200 PIXELS.
  1. Design the background of the first slide or insert an image. Add an image that you plan to animate. This could be your Bitmoji. To duplicate the slide, click on the slide => Edit => Duplicate.

  2. Slightly move the image/Bitmoji. Duplicate the slide. Repeat these steps until your image has completed the movement.

Design Animation in Google Slides

  1. Click on File => Publish to the Web.

  1. Click on both boxes to place a checkmark. Then click on Publish.
  1. Copy the URL.
  1. Open a new Chrome browser tab. Paste the URL in the Omnibox (address bar). The 3000 number means 3000 milliseconds. To make the images move more quickly, enter a smaller amount (100, 150, 200) and press the enter/return key. If the motion is too fast, increase the number. If the action is too slow, decrease the number.

Record the Screen Using Screencastify

  1. Add the Screencastify Chrome extension from the Web Store.
  2. To record the tab that is playing your Google Slides presentation, click on the Screencastify extension button.
  1. Record the browser tab.
  1. Trim the video clip.
  2. Click on Download. Select Export Animated GIF.
  1. Move the slider so that the size is closest to 800×200.
Upload GIF to Google Classroom

  1. Open Google Classroom.
  2. Click on Upload Photo.
  1. Click on the Select Class Theme button.
  1. The animated GIF will appear as your Classroom banner.
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