Wednesday, October 9, 2013

There Is So Much Power In Sharing

It's a pretty magical time in education these days. I am reminded just how awesome so many of our teachers are and just how much time and energy is put into the daily flow. The idea of working smarter and not harder and freeing up teacher time, by leveraging the technology and specifically Google's tools into their classrooms inspires me often.

And this is why I love the Google in Education Summits, produced by EdTechTeam. An amazing array of teachers from different regions, backgrounds, and content areas come together and share, learn, inquire, and try new and amazing things in their classrooms. Time after time folks are walking away inspired and more confident than ever that this is the time to change or add to their classrooms, their delivery models, and their strategies.

In the coming weeks and months, I will be trying to do a better job of capturing some of this awesomeness of sharing and learning; by way of this blog and through the use of feeds and social media tools like Storify, Vine, Instagram, etc.

For now, I would like to share a resource from one of the first sessions I was ever able to attend at one of these summits, shared courtesy of my friend and colleague, Chris Bell25+ Ways to Use Google Tools for Online & Blended Learning  Attending this session allowed me to step back for a moment and truly reflect on the value add of something as simple as timely feedback. As Chris pointed out that day, if feedback was tightened up and informal communication increased, the online asynchronous siloed teacher/student relationships could be a thing of the past.

Thank you to everyone who has led, attended, or lurked from afar in one of the sessions over the past 16 months. There is real power in sharing and when we can leverage face to face events and still have access to the resources later on, the learning truly never stops. Sharing something that you learned, tried, or want to know more about, models a passionate; launch, reflect, and iterate model so many of us want for our kiddos.

I will continue to share and learn long side many of you. Thank you for that opportunity.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

ISTE 2013 Here I Come! we are again on the annual trip to the ISTE conference! As of this writing, I’m on the plane to San Antonio, Texas writing this on a Chromebook Pixel with offline Google Docs. Despite the misnomer, there are many things you can do on a Chromebook without Internet access. To be fair, the experience would be far better with web access (come on United! Get wifi on all your planes!), but I would argue that even my Macbook Pro is mostly useless without wifi as I primarily live/work/play on the web--not with offline, desktop-based apps. But I digress...

I love travelling to ISTE because I nearly always run into someone I know at the airport on the way there. This year, I ran into Bill Selak (a 2013 ISTE Emerging Leader award recipient!). We both checked in on Foursquare and I received a notification that a friend of mine was nearby as a result. It turns out we were actually on the same flight! It’s always fun to connect up with other educators in unexpected ways through these tools that we’re now taking for granted. I look back and even five years ago most of this would have been a pipedream. That’s what makes tech--and, specifically, edtech, so much fun. We get to experience the future now.

I’m really looking forward to seeing many people I haven’t seen in some time now along with meeting new friends. My schedule isn’t too packed this year so I’ll have more time to chat and visit than I have in the past. I’m leading one half-day workshop Android App Inventor Bootcamp with fellow Google Certified Teacher, Brian Van Dyke. I look forward to helping guide educators through getting started with App Inventor while Brian reglales them with tales of working with the Google CAPE program and his conversations with Hal Ableson of MIT’s famed Media Lab.

I’m also spending a bit of time at the Google booth where I’ll be presenting on Google Tools and Creating Presence in the Online Classroom. It’s a 30 minute session in the teaching theatre at the Google booth on Tuesday at 12:00 PM. Hope to see you there. If you can’t make my session, then be sure to check out all of the amazing educators who will be presenting on various topics for 15-30 minutes each. Some standouts include:

  • Jim Sill - Making Movies with YouTube
  • Jennie Magiera - Google School Makeover- 10 ways Google Apps for Education will revolutionize your school
  • Monica Martinez - Three Easy Ways to use Google Drive in the Classroom
  • Julene Reed - Google+ for Personalized Learning and Collaboration
  • Jason Markey - Leverage the Web with Chromebooks
  • Dan McDowell - Collaborative Essays with Google Docs
  • Molly Schroeder - Chrome Ninja Tips and Tricks

As usual, I’ll spend quite a bit of time in the vendor hall walking the aisles and talking to old and new friends as well as checking out their wares. Particularly, I’m very interested in cost-effective iPad and Chromebook carts, storage cases for Chromebooks, blended learning solutions for grades 3-6, and the list goes on.

My final thought on ISTE before landing in San Antonio is that I’m really wondering when ISTE will truly be international and host a conference outside the United States. In the past year of hosting Google in Education Summits both in the U.S. and internationally, I’ve had the fortune of travelling to New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. I have found the practice of getting outside of the United States helpful in reshaping my perspective on the education landscape and I do think that’s hard to do when you’re on familiar ground--even if you’re among like-minded peeps. What I learn from my travels and visits to other locations and schools I bring back to my school district in the form of new ideas for learning spaces, instructional strategies, and different thoughts about student learning and assessment. It’s refreshing. I look forward to the time when ISTE truly goes international.

Note: all hyperlinks and images were added in after I landed and had wifi connectivity.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Multimedia Editing with Google Drive

This post could also be titled: "What I meant to share during yesterday's glitchy demo slam..." ;)

When teachers talk about using Chromebooks as student machines, they often lament the lack of multimedia editing tools for student projects (such as the iLife Suite that has for years made Macs an excellent choice for student use and 1:1 programs). Chromebooks, of course, don't have any local applications... just a fast, secure, and feature rich browser... work is created and stored "in the cloud."

Google Docs (now Google Drive) has been an amazing web-based creation and collaboration tool for years, but now that Google Drive is a platform and an ecology of apps is evolving, more and more options are available for the "iLife like" experience on the web. Here are three Google Drive Apps that I shared during the demo slam at the Google in Education Summit yesterday.
Pixlr Editor for editing images (a photoshop analog)
UJAM for creating music (a GarageBand analog)
WeVideo for editing video (an iMovie analog)
While these web-based apps may not be as mature as their harddrive based equivalents... look what is possible on the web today! And imagine what is to come. You might browse the collection Drive Apps in the Chrome Web Store to get a better glimpse of what your browser is now capable of doing. :)

Personally, I moved almost completely into the cloud almost two years ago and have never regretted it... it's been amazing too watch how quickly the pace of change in the browser has accelerated, and though I'm no expert in this new breed of online apps, I'm excited about what they mean for the accessibility, usability, and portability of student data, media, and computing/creating/collaborating experiences. Let me know in the comments if you have other favorite Drive Apps... and please share any success stories (or challenges) you might already have experienced personally or with your students.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Autumn Through the Eyes of a Child

By Second Grade Teacher Julie Stewart

We set out one afternoon before fall break to take in the beauty of the autumn colors.  Our weather was changing fast, and we needed to get outside and snap some pictures before all of the leaves ended up on the ground.  Because we did not have a fancy tablet cover for our Nexus 7 tablets, taking them outside was something that we were a bit nervous about doing.  Our technology teacher, Beth Mossholder, came to class with a solution...Rubber bands!  You heard it right.  We could do this inexpensively and make it work!  Each child was given a rubber band and instructed to attach it to the tablet by slipping their non-writing/typing hand through the rubber band on the back of the Nexus 7.  It worked beautifully!  It was quick and secure, so we could venture outside the classroom and begin our autumn photo safari around the school grounds.  As they made their way outside, I could hear conversations about what they would take pictures of, how they were going to do it, and how they would help each other.  We were ready for our adventure!

Three Simple Steps For a Successful Autumn Photo Safari
1.  Add a rubber band and you are instantly ready to take pictures almost hands-free.
2.  Head outside to capture the beauty of autumn with a Nexus 7 tablet.
3.  Share photos with the teacher.

I have to say that the camera on the Nexus 7 tablet did a great job and did not disappoint anyone.  Even though this tablet just has a front facing camera, a student discovered that by holding it over your shoulder or off to the side, you could see the picture that you were taking.  It is not as good as having the added feature of a rear facing camera, but it worked and they got some really good pictures.  We headed back inside and shared photos and photography tips!  There was even time for peer-to-peer teaching.   One of my “expert” students showed the rest of the class a faster way to view their pictures.   (I loved how they  actually listened and had questions for her at the end!)

Autumn through the eyes of a child and a Nexus 7 tablet!  I do believe that their photo safari was a success!