Saturday, September 20, 2014

Productivity Tools for the Educator

The recent announcement of new Apple products and their updated operating system highlight how dependent many of us are on tech tools that are supposed to improve our lives.  I’m just as guilty, with too many devices, running too many operating systems, and a love for the newest and greatest ed tech applications.  


As with closets and drawers, the time comes periodically to do a “spring cleaning” and clear out the unused apps and dusty folders that no longer serve their original purpose.  For me, such cleaning also allows those quality applications to rise to the top.  

The focus of this post is quality productivity tools - sites and apps that provide four important functions:
  • Saves time on tasks I have to do frequently
  • Works with most of my devices (phone, tablet, laptop)
  • Is used often during the week
  • Improves my life by respecting my time or taking tasks off my list
Not surprising, the ones that stand out are all Google applications.  They run on all my devices and allow me to access them at work, at home and when I travel.


Google Forms A “survey” application that auto-creates a spreadsheet of responses (including a visual summary). Can be used to gather information, for formative assessment, rubric, student reflection form, class management log, documenting PD, collecting student work, and more.  Having all the collected information in one place provides a huge organizational benefit.  

Google Calendar Create a class calendar and share it with your families. Turn on notifications and reminders, add collaborators, and attach documents.  Use the invitation feature to share events, like Back to School Night or the class party.  I can have my personal events on the same Google Cal, but keep those private. Even works offline.  

Google Classroom Allows teachers to assign and collect work paperlessly.  Auto-creates folders on the students' Drive, which improves and models organization skills. Teachers can access student work in one place and easily provide real-time feedback. Still in beta, with more features to come.
This is just a short list, and we know there are many more good productivity tools out there. What do you like to use, and how does it benefit your life?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Introduction to iPads iOS 7: Part 1--Hardware - from Tracy Watanabe's Blog

Here's an excellent post to jumpstart your iPad implementation, from Tracy Watanabe's Blog .

Directly from Tracy's blog..."How does a teacher start to use iPads in the classroom? This post will include the basics for getting started. Part 1 focuses on the hardware fundamentals with iOS 7, while Part 2 focuses on iPad integration in the classroom." Read the whole post here!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Time for the Back to School Ed Tech Checklist!

It's already mid-August! Time to get cracking. Developing lessons that have sound pedagogical foundations and integrates ed tech is essential in this day and age. Additionally, there are some basic prerequisites that need to be addressed to get the year off to a smooth start.  Here's a list with back to school ed tech to do's.

With Your Administration and IT Team...
  • Confirm the budget for ed tech needs.  Order anything you have the budget for so it's at school before the year starts!
  • Review and update your Acceptable Use Policy.
  • Make sure carts are set up right - do they charge devices, is the timer working? Enough power supplies?
  • Device tune-up: Check batteries, replace missing keys, wipe them down, update/refresh/re-image, add apps...
  • Tune up/double check your Google Apps for Ed policies and settings.
  • Determine where you'll store 'the new gear' for the year (hopefully this already happened...)
  • Understand or develop a procedure to check-out/check-in devices.

In Your Classroom…
  • Create a Tech Boot Camp agenda ("How do I...?") for students and roll it out by first week of school.
  • Determine your go-to techie kids (after school starts, of course).
  • Develop your first (one, or three, or five...) ed tech integrated lessons.
  • Confirm all the wireless access points are plugged in and functional (summer cleanings and all).
  • Update student lists - add to Google Apps for Ed, LMS, SIS, online edu sites, etc.
  • Make sure document cameras, projectors, etc. are functional. Do you have a spare lamp?
  • Confirm the location of digital cameras. Make sure they're charged up. Create a signout sheet.
  • Develop a brief communication to parents about your ed tech plans (i.e., why is this important?).
  • Freshen up your class webpage for the new year.

For Yourself…
  • Partner up with another teacher to grow your ed tech knowledge and skills.
  • Find a blog that will help you learn more about new tools, tips and techniques.
  • Add one new thing to your tech tool belt.

What other items can you add to this? Let us know!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fair Use and Copyright Resource - Media Education Lab

Timothy Vollmer
I recently read that 90% of the content found on the Internet was created in the last 4 years.  New material - text, images, video, and music - is available to us to access at a rapid rate.  Ways to use it, repurpose it, and share it are growing too.  New multimedia tools and social media networks are sprouting up on a regular basis. Even our old friends, like Facebook and Twitter, are coming up with new ways to add to the proliferation of information we see each day.

Add to that what educators regard as a confusing Fair Use policy, and teachers are at times leery to jump into the pool of Web 2.0 creative opportunities for their students.  Unfortunate, but necessary, as those who create work need to be protected from unscrupulous use of their creations.

True, Fair Use is purposely contextual in application.  While many see this as confusing, the more one studies it, the more that makes sense.  Nothing we use either inside or out of a classroom has identical purposes or applications. It comes down to asking the question, “Am I using the creative work of others to somehow financially or personally benefit?”  If the answer is yes, copyright infringement might be in play.  

Being we are in education (therefore, fall under Fair Use provisions) we have our own “magic checklist” to consider. Have we and our students: checked who owns it, received permission to use it, given credit to the creator, bought it (if necessary), and used it responsibly.  Are we as teachers modeling these practices for our students?  Are we requiring students to abide by them every time?

I have discovered a very complete resource to help teachers navigate through the murky waters of copyright and Fair Use.  The Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island has created a complete site of videos, slideshows, and other information specifically designed for teachers.  Take a few minutes to see what is available and consider referring to it when questions arise.
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