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Redefining the (digital) Classroom

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Friday, March 28, 2014

PD in a GIFfy

Earlier on this blog I wrote about GIFs, how you should pronounce them and why I love them. Recently, I saw an awesome new way to use a GIF for a PD or how-to website! On the Google Drive Blog, they are making full use of them to illustrate step-by-step point and click directions for new features. Check out this post and scroll down below the video.

Here's an example showing how I can edit the HTML in this very blog post.

VIDEO on Make A Gif

How did I do this? First, I screencasted my clicks with QuickTime (you can also do this with Jing if you're not a Mac user), then used MakeaGIF to turn the video into a GIF. What I like about this vs. embedding a video is that your audience doesn't have to stop reading the text to watch the video, they can skim the entire content of the post easily! I'm definitely going to start using this strategy on more of my training websites!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

TTT Update: Device-less Digital Learning & Responsive Consequences

Teaching Toward Tomorrow Hey there 2999 readers! Just wanted to share links to two recent posts I wrote for my other blog, Teaching Toward Tomorrow on Education Week Teacher. Hopefully you find them helpful! :)

7 Ideas for Going Digital Without Devices
If you don't have devices it doesn't matter since you can't "go digital", right? Not necessarily! Here are seven ideas for how you can go digital - even without devices. Click here to read more...

Tech Is Not a Treat: Responding to Device Misuse
As more and more of our classrooms go 1:1 with technology, they are being faced with new challenges. One that looms over many teachers' heads is what to do when students misuse the devices? That is, what is the appropriate response when a student is on the wrong app at the wrong time, downloads games to their device when they're supposed to be building a website, writes four-lettered words on a class discussion board, or worse - engages in cyberbullying? Click here to read more...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Google Add-Ons are Right On!

If you've been waiting to upgrade to the new Google Sheets, here's a big reason to take the plunge: Add-ons. These are just what they sound like - add on tools for a Google Sheet or Google Doc. Included in these add-ons are refreshed versions of some scripts we've come to know and love, such as Doctopus, Autocrat and Flubaroo.

However, there are many more amazing automations found in the Add-ons docs gallery and Add-ons sheets gallery. You can either browse these by scrolling through or filter by topic - such as education, productivity, etc.

Here are a few gems I've found already:

Docs Add-ons:
  • Easy Bib: This simply automates and simplifies the creation of bibliographies in MLA, APA or Chicago format.
  • eSign / Panda Sign / hello sign: These three similar add-ons allow you to create digitally signable documents.
  • Track Changes: Is revision history sometimes a bit hard to follow in a collaborative document? I agree! The Track Changes add-on allows you to accept or reject revisions as they come in, just like a certain popular desktop-based word processor.
  • Thesaurus: I am so often opening a new window to find synonyms for words as I write these posts. Having a thesaurus built into the doc will make this so much simpler!
  • gliffy / Mind Meister / WebSequence Diagrams: O.M.G. - love these three add-ons. They take text in your doc and turn it into a visual diagram! Mind Meister is probably the easist to use... give them a whirl!
Sheets Add-ons:
  • Split Names: Ever import a list of student or staff names then have to alphabetize them by last name... but the names are all in one cell so you need to manually separate them? Not anymore - this add-on does it for you. 
  • Twitter Curator: Want to curate your tweets in a spreadsheet? Bam. 
  • DriveEye: Ever want to audit your own Drive to see what docs you've got in there and who they are shared to? I have, and have never been able to do it quickly in the past. This solves that problem!

Once installed, these add-ons will forever appear in the add-ons menu of your Docs or Sheets. No need to reinstall or reauthorize. Moreover, most use a handy side-bar navigation, making the workflow and user interface easy and convenient!

For sheets users, note that besides Doctopus, Autocrat and Flubaroo many other educational Google Scripts have yet to make the move over to the add-ons gallery. Additionally, there are several features that haven't been completed in the new Google Sheets (such as notification rules and protected sheets/ranges). In this case, you'll want to continue using the older version of Sheets. To tell the difference between new sheets and old sheets, look at the bottom right hand corner of your screen for the green check icon (new sheets) or "Try the new Google Sheets" (old sheets). For more information on switching, see this help article. (Note: Docs users don't need to switch versions - only sheets.)

To find out more about add-ons, check out this blog post from the Google Drive blog. Also, if you're a developer or have some savvy coding skills, you can create your own add-ons! Check out this site for more information.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

210 Seconds: Speedy Tablet Deployment

Recently we started piloting some Nexus 7 tablets with our students. While there are many exciting things about these devices, our biggest "holy smokes" moment was how easy it is to provision, or set them up.

All you need to do is set up one master or "admin" tablet by downloading the Edu SetUp app. Then input the WiFi settings and a PIN for the teacher to use on this devices. All in all, this takes under 2 minutes. After that's done, simply turn on the rest of the devices and "bump" them - or place them back to back until you hear a chirping noise. Done! This sets up WiFi, the student and teacher accounts and bypasses all the set up windows. Once your students log on, all of their apps and digital content appear automatically!

It was so simple we wondered if our primary students could do it. It turns out they can.

Below three of our second graders, Brione, Kiana and Harrison provision or "bump" 25 Nexus 7 tablets in 210 seconds. Check it out!

Friday, January 24, 2014

"We Learn Better in this Way" - a White House Film Festival submission

My students love music and they love technology. So when they heard about the White House Film Festival - a chance for them to make a 3 minute video about their love of digital learning - they were dead set on making a music video.

First they decided on a song. They wanted to rap at first but after a few iterations realized it was harder to come up with lyrics for fast songs. So they went back to the drawing board. Instead they picked a catchy "easy to sing" slower song - Royals by Lorde. Then they got to work on rewriting the lyrics. They created a shared Google Doc, started brainstorming topics that should go in their song - devices they use, how they use them, etc. Then they did a side-by-side table to look at the original lyrics and their rewrite.

After a few weeks of writing, practicing and rewriting, they had finally come up with their masterpiece. While I'm a huge fan of their lyrical genius and sweet dance moves, I'm even more impressed with the process they went through, their perseverance and the fact that they were really thoughtful about how to portray their use of technology to learn. Even more - that they used the skills they were singing about in the creation of the video itself!

So, without further ado, here is "We Learn Better in this Way" by Jaylen, Jean Paul, Grevelle and Latrell (5th Grade, NTA). Enjoy! :)