Tag Archives: tech tips

Text Expanders: The Magical Time Saver You Need Right Now

This may not solve *all* of your current problems in life, but it may help with a few: that email you send every time a new student comes to class, the list of suggestions on how to improve your grade, wanting to leave the same comment on multiple students’ feedback, working in Google Docs or Forms and needing a math symbol, having a really long course title name that you always have to type out, being too lazy to type your entire name at the end of an email. The answer to all of these is:

Get a text expander!

I used to use one way back in Windows XP and I had a teacher say it was one of the most helpful things he ever installed. But then it didn’t work in Windows Vista and I sort of forgot about it because mostly I used MS Word and created my own shortcuts in there.

But then an article from Wired reminded me about them and I’ve been using one this week and, well, as I said, it’s magical.

I did about 3 minutes of research and went with Auto Text Expander. It seemed easy to use and was free. We’re a Google school so I do everything in Chrome now anyway. If you still do a lot of work in MS Office, you may want to research into one of the system-wide ones mentioned in the Wired article.

So anyway, what does it do?

Well, you set it up so you type a few letters and it expands it into your personalized phrase. Here are some examples it comes preloaded with:

(The %clip% code inserts whatever is on your clipboard.)

But you can really put ANYTHING in the expansion section. For example, maybe you need to send emails about failing grades. So you could make “failtest” to expand to:


Your student currently has a <!–?atec?–> in my class. This is mainly due to low test scores. My tutoring zooms are Monday and Wednesday at 2:00 pm.

Please let me know if you have questions,

Meg Craig”

Then you could make “failassign” to be the same thing, but have the reason being that they have not completed assignments. The <!–?atec?–> puts the cursor in that spot so you can input the grade.

But “my class” is fairly generic, eh? Well, you could type the actual course in the subject line of the email use the text expansion algI to put “Algebra I with Probability” in the subject line of the email.

So now your workflow would be:
1. New Email
2. Paste parent email into to:
3. Subject line: type algi
4. Body: type failtest, type the grade, send.

WHOA, am I right??!?!

I also added “gm” for Good Morning! as an email salutation and “tmc” for Thanks, Meg Craig for my signature.

I see this also being handy to leave feedback on Google and Desmos. Make shortcuts for commonly used comments (wn: “watch your negatives!”) and/or make specific comment shortcuts for the actual assignment. Like if everyone thought cosine was 0 at π, you could have “c0” expand to “Remember cosine is the x-coordinate! Where is π radians on the x-axis?”

Oh, ahem, did you also see what I did there with the actual π symbol? Yes, you can also use symbols in your shortcuts, and make shortcuts for just symbols. This could be life changing for all you Geometry teachers out there! Think trg = Δ, cng = ≅, exp2 = 2, theta = θ, sigma = Σ. I simply google “blah blah blah symbol” and copy and paste the symbol into the text expansion.

Did I mention this also works in Google forms?

(Ironically, it does not work in WordPress editing. So after you install it, you may want to check to see if it works in your programs before you spend too much time making phrases.)

With a little bit of time spent setting it up (psst…to edit the phrases, click the puzzle piece in the top right of your chrome address bar and select the expansion), I think you’ll find it will pay off in the long run! I’ll leave you with three hints:

  1. Make sure your code phrase isn’t something you’ll commonly type. For example, I used “es” for Environmental Science, which was great until I typed “these” and Environmental Science ended up in the middle. Changing it to evs solved the problem! That’s also why I used trg instead of tri for Δ (I mean, yes, you could also use delta but I was using it as a triangle in this context. Plus think of the delta math issue!)
  2. Make a little cheat sheet post-it for your computer monitor of your codes until you have them memorized.
  3. If you’re using Auto Text Expander, click export and copy it in an email to yourself in case you lose your backup!

I hope you give this a try and I really hope it adds a little well-deserved magic into your life!! Pretty soon you’ll be telling yourself:

Harry-Potter-Hagrid-Youre-A-Wizard-Harry - What's A Geek
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Twenty Day Digital Organization Challenge

I was asked to give some professional development about tech to a local teacher group. I was told that the teachers there probably weren’t the tech-i-est so I started listing things I wanted to show them. Then I thought, well, if they’re anything like me, they are going to file this paper away and then never try anything so because they don’t have time. So I made it into a ten-minute-a-day challenge. I mean, we can all find an extra ten minutes, right? I came up with 20 so it would be a month’s worth of school days. I’m sure most of you are pretty tech savvy, but maybe there’s something new for you (or you can hand it out to your other non-tech-savvy friends). Here’s the challenges:

Twenty Day Digital ChallengeFile here

And I copied these shortcuts to the back:

Word and Equation ShortcutsFile here (whoa, I just noticed that half of the equation stuff is for the new (gross) editor! Will try to fix it ASAP!)

If you’d like to know more about equation editor and math autocorrect, visit this post.

I also asked about some good tech tips on Twitter and I got a ton of great responses! Some totally new to me, some old favorites, and a lot of apps/add-on suggestions!  Check out the tweet and replies here!  Thanks to everyone who made some great suggestions!

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3 Tech Tips for Teachers

Just a quick post to share some of my favorite tech tips.  These are some that I think everyone is born knowing and then I’m shocked to find someone techier/younger/hipper who doesn’t know it.

1. Print 2 to a page.

Seriously, these kids have good vision.  Save a tree.  In Word 2010 or higher, it’s the bottom option:

CaptureaAnd in earlier versions, it’s in the lower right of the print box:


(I don’t know why I didn’t set my examples to actually have “2 pages” instead of one, but I trust you guys are smart enough to figure that part out.)

Pro tip: Type your original on legal.  When you print 2 to a page, it will use up all that space you get at the bottom when printing letter 2/page.

2. DoPDF PDF Converter.

Download here.  (Looks like Windows only, sorry losers Mac users)

This installs another printer on your machine, but it really prints it to a PDF file.  Simply print, select it as your printer, then choose where to save it (you can even choose a default folder).  “But I can save .docx as a .pdf, so why would I need this?”

A) Combine with tip #1.  Type your document as normal (because using Word’s 2 to a page layout while making a worksheet is super annoying), maybe using a slightly larger font (maybe 14, but I can get away with 11).  Choose doPDF as your printer and choose 2 copies.  Then it opens up the PDF and you can print 2 to a page from there.  This really helps when you use the protip above, because sometimes Word doesn’t play nicely printing legal 2 to a page.

B) Make a PDF of a powerpoint handout to post for your students.  Is there anything more annoying than seeing a kid in the library print out 27 full-page slides?  But since you can’t teach everyone everything, this helps.

C) Print all those annoying “print this confirmation” pages (even though I’m about to get 12 different emails confirming that I did, in fact, order Orphan Black Season 2 because I can’t wait for it to come on Amazon Instant Prime).  Send them all to a “receipt” file.  Bonus if you can spell “receipt” right on the first try.

3. En Dash Shortcut

You know how sometimes Word will change your hyphen to a nice wider subtraction sign (the “en dash”), but sometimes it won’t depending on the relative humidity?  I can’t believe that in my previous shortcut post, I forgot to share my favorite shortcut off all: making two hyphens into an en dash:

Bonus tip:

Dude, I just learned this one last month and I’ve been a dropbox user forever. I would always go to the website to get a link to share, but did you know that with box or dropbox, you can right-click on the file or folder on your desktop to get the link?  It’ll copy it straight to your clipboard.

Am I seriously the last one to learn about this?

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Equation Editor Awesomeness

First of all, thanks to everyone who wrote a comment or tweeted a reply about my first post. I’m still amazed at how many awesome people were at TMC that I didn’t get to connect with, how darn inclusive and supportive everyone in the MTBoS is,  and how quickly MTBoS can take over your entire day.  So I’m going to post this and then stay off the interwebs until Global Math Department tonight so I can fully enjoy one of my last days of vacation and read an actual book!  Anyway, onto the show…

For those of you that thought my Equation Editor “My Favorites” was just a bit too fast, here is a recap.  I’ll also be talking about it and doing a quick demo on Global Math Department tonight as part of the TMC14 recap–please join us! It’ll be my first time non-lurking.

I offered up an Equation Editor flex session or My Favorites before TMC, but wasn’t sure how many people would benefit, so then I un-offered. I thought maybe everyone else didn’t even use worksheets or maybe they are all latex-y or maybe they are so awesome that they can just think about an equation and it automatically appears on the screen.  And then in the middle of Steve’s teacher-life-changing powerpoint, there it was: a square root with no hat.  I thought, “Well, if this guy who is AMAZING and has been dealing with math FOREVER can’t make a hat, maybe there is someone else that needs Equation Editor help, too.”  So I re-volunteered and I hope I helped some of you out!  Here is a recap:

Rule number 1: The equation button in the ribbon is VERY tempting, like a man with candy in the back of a van. DO NOT GET IN THE VAN.  Good life rule, but in this case it is because: (1) formatting is crap  (2) some things are intuitive, but many are not (3) you can’t copy and edit it in powerpoint (4) it does not play well with printers. If you’ve ever printed a worksheet and just the fraction bars are printed but no numbers, thank the equation button.

That’s actually the only rule.  The rest of the information can be found in this handout.  It has the links to the videos (those are also at the bottom of this post) as well as step-by-step instructions.  It also has this amazing chart that you can print and laminate to keep next to your computer:

Eq Ed shortcuts

Haha, I know it looks like there’s not a space between “and then” but it’s a weird table-formatting-issue, not an equation-editor issue. In normal text it looks like a space!


Really, everything you need is in that handout, so go read it!  Well, I say everything, but there are a few issues with Powerpoint.  I’ll try to make a post about using Equation in Powerpoint soon.

The good news is using Equation in Word is really quick and easy once you make some shortcuts and start working with it.  If you have a question or have any Equation Editor tips I left out, let me know in the comments.  And in case the handout is tl;dr, here are the videos (but really, read the handout!  Don’t you want that chart?!? You want that chart.  Seriously, you did not know ctrl + k, < gave you a ≤, did you?  Plus if you read the handout, you can learn how to get ≤ without using underlining or equation editor!


Making a Macro:

Using Equation Editor (I didn’t have time to show this one, but if you make piecewise functions you’ll want to watch until the end!)

Making Equation Editor Autocorrect Shortcuts (the magic one)

Making Symbol Shortcuts

And if you made it all the way to the end, a gold star for you!

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