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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Edtech Share Fair 2016

Last Wednesday, we had our second annual Edtech Share Fair.  In terms of sheer numbers, we were successful: nearly double the presenters and attendees.  We also had a large contingent of people outside of our district visit; educators from six different districts got tickets, and we even had a U of L professor bring his entire class of students!

Ashley Sutter from our local newspaper the Sentinel News did a story on the Share Fair, which you can read here.

Last but not least, I did a Storify which contains a select sample of the tweets using hashtag #SCsharefair:

Special thanks to all of our presenters and helpers, as well as all those that attended!

Monday, March 21, 2016


Before I get into today's tool, I want to say what an educational and inspirational time I had at KySTE 2016 a few weeks ago!  Not only because the sessions were good as always, but it is always great to see my other educational technology peeps.  Special congratulations to Marty Park for his "Making IT Happen" award and Heidi Neltner for being recognized as this year's "Outstanding Teacher." (Is it a coincidence that I interviewed her mere months before Heidi won? Did her brilliant words tip the judges in her favor?  We will have to open an X File and investigate; the truth is out there.)

Today's tool came out of a need requested by teachers with our Chromebooks.  The ability to do annotation is important to help students take ownership of text, as well as capturing and sharing their thinking.  The trouble is finding a cloud based tool that does this, since you can't download programs on a Chromebook.  A few teachers mentioned Kami, and once I played around with it, I was very pleased. It is free, fairly easy to use, and because you can save annotated files to your Google Drive, sharing your annotations or reviewing your previous notes is a cinch.  (Side note: Kami was formerly known as Notable, if you are a previous user of the tool.)

How does it work?  You first must register.  Thankfully (especially for students!), you can use your existing Google account to log in.  There is also a Chrome browser App and Extension available to install if you like, which would allow you to annotate offline!

As noted previously, Kami is free, but by paying an upgrade fee you can get some premium features, starting with removing ads and autosaving to your Drive.  The custom pricing available for schools allows for the inserting of shapes, audio annotations, collaboration among users, and text to speech capabilities.  As a free user I can't attest to these bonus features, but I can definitely see their value.

Once logged in, you can import several different types of files from various locations, including straight from your Google Drive, Box, or Dropbox accounts.

Once you bring in a file (like a Google Doc or a PDF), your annotation tools will appear in a sidebar to the left.  Two of the buttons (shapes and document signatures) are part of the Premium upgrades.

Various Kami tools in action.  "Wow!" in red shows the drawing tool. "This is text" in purple is the text tool.  The orange dot is part of the comment tool (linked to box on the right).  Strikethrough, highlight and underline are also shown.
After you make your annotations, you click on the download icon in the upper right and choose how to Export the file.  Note that you can export to your computer, or directly into your Google Drive.

Exporting as a "PDF With Annotations" is probably your best bet.

And that's it!  Once you get used to navigating the site, Kami can become a very versatile annotation tool for students.

How could you use it?   Annotation, obviously.  But if the exported PDFs are put in a shared folder with the teacher and/or other students, the ability for quick feedback (from teachers and peers) would make Kami invaluable.

Downsides?  The drawing tool is awkward with a mouse or trackpad; with a touchscreen and a stylus, it would be better.  That said, the drawing tool has no adjustment of line thickness, so text notes would be better for longer annotations.   I wish some of the premium features were freely available for education accounts, but it's hard to complain when most of Kami is free in the first place.

I've yet to come across a cloud based annotation tool that's free and this easy to use with Chromebooks.  Give it a try with your students!

Have you and your students used Kami?  What did you think?  Leave a Comment below.