Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Searching Google Docs For AISD Content

The more we use Google Docs in AISD, the more we will find some of the advanced features more important. For example, I create the world's greatest Literature Group lesson in Google docs and have shared it with AISD.  Later, I meet Mr. Smyth at a meeting downtown and he said he would be interested in seeing my lesson. How will he be able to find it quickly?

Make It Visible
To the right, you see how I made my Doc visible. I chose to not make it viewable to the entire world, but just to all 7,000+ AISD employees and 80,000+ students.

By marking the top AISD button, any teacher/student will be able to search Google Docs and find my document. 

*WARNING: This is a good and bad thing. Don't share any confidential material like this as someone could search and find it by accident.

Now that my document is saved with some unique name and I marked the document as visible by all AISD searches, my colleagues can find this document and open it WITHOUT  me having to share it with them specifically.

Use The Advanced Search
The more documents you have in Google Docs, the more you'll use the search box. Typing and searching for keywords will quickly go through your own docs and show suggestions for your search.

Basic Search

However, I can also search the vast amount of docs that live inside the AISD Google Docs domain. By using the advanced search drop-down, I can use the 'Search AISD' link at the very bottom. My search results now will come from my Docs as well as all other user-created docs in AISD.
Using this with students can be quite useful.  For today's problem statement, I want my students to open up my document, add their thoughts and submit at the end of the week for a grade.
  1. Create a Google Docs and name it something unique, like "MartinP5PhysicsandPolitics". Share that document with AISD, as above.
  2. Students will login to the Cloud and do the advanced search for that file name, and open the file.
  3. Because I want this file to be a template, I didn't give anyone edit rights.  So my students' first action will be to go to the Google Docs File menu and 'Make a Copy' of this document. They now have their own copy and can edit it to their heart's content.
  4. By the end of the week, they can share their document with me. (They won't change any privacy settings because they don't need anyone to find their work.) The share with me, giving me edit writes so that I can leave comments on their work.
There are a number of different ways to share with others, but I'll put that in a later post.  Leave a comment if you have done this with your students. Did you find it useful? What did you do differently that worked for you?

Monday, November 21, 2011

iPad Support and Tips

Every time I turn around, seems that I see another website out there with lists of iPad apps that you just can't live without. As an educator, those are sometimes nice because you just don't have the extra time it could take to window shop in the iTunes store looking for useful apps.  We are putting out hat into the ring in order to address that request from teachers.

The AISD iPad User's Group has been started as a place for educators to find resources online, share lists of apps, and join into a discussion about using iApps in the classroom.  This resources has been divided into two segments, 1) a website that you can view and add your ideas to a growing list, and 2) an email group that users can use to ask questions, seek support, or share successes from like-minded educators.

iPad User's Group Lists/Resources: https://sites.google.com/a/austinisd.org/ipad_users_group/  This website has a small group of links in the left margin for viewing and adding to lists.  The lists are all Google Forms that allow any user to add their useful ideas to the collection.   Each page has a link to the form and then a link to the list.

iPad User's Group Email Group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/ipads-in-education  At the bottom of the iPad User's Group website, there is an embedded view of the email group found at this link. Either way, anyone can view the comments being shared by the group.  You are encouraged to join the group by visiting the Google Groups page and registering. Membership allows you to reply to a post, start a new post for discussion, and get the discussions email to you automatically.  (Your email addresses will not be shared, sold, or made into holiday crafts. This list is just for creating a dialogue among teachers about iPad use in the classroom.)

Google Groups
Subscribe to iPads in Education

Visit this group

So join the iPad User's Group (IUG) here in Austin and help us all benefit from the collective experiences of many teachers.   We can learn from each other.  For example, in the IUG is a tip on how to make iOS 5's keyboard split into two pieces.  By holding down the keyboard icon in the lower right, you can select 'Split Keyboard' and have two small keyboards on each side of the screen, right where your thumbs are is you are holding it with two hands!  Nice!!  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Using Audacity in AISD

Making audio recordings in the classroom can be a great tool for assessment, a nice student product for class, or a necessary step for many high school students as they have a need to send language examples to colleges. The district supports Audacity as the standard audio recording tool.

The software is not already installed on the computers, but any teacher or student can install the software with their normal network login. (Schools using Deepfreeze will need to thaw the computer before installing software.)  You can find a video, Installing Audactiy Part 1, that will show users how to install the software.

Recording software is pretty easy. The buttons are the same buttons you find on a CD or cassette player. Audacity will create an audio track each time you press the record button. There are numerous resources online that will show you how to improve your audio recordings and even make multi-track recordings. A second video, Recording with Audacity Part 2, gives a very basic look at how to record audio using Audacity.

Lastly, the recording artist can save the file as an Audacity Project File, which keeps all of the sound edits made after recording.  You can also export the sound as a .wav or .mp3 audio file. Currently, all users will have to locate the .mp3 LAME encoder file before successfully exporting the mp3.  The thrid video in our series, Saving and Exporting with Audacity Part 3, shows how one can successfully export an mp3 when using a computer inside the school district.  That video has been embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

For more resources on using Audacity, check out  AtomicLearning.com and the rest of the internet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Webcams Set Learning On Fire!

There are so many productive things that we can do with a good digital camera in the classroom. Unfortunately, we all don't have class sets of digital cameras to use. I would argue that the lack of digital cameras opens up opportunities that only webcams can provide, and we have we have at least one webcam in every classroom, the teacher laptop webcam.  If we bring in a campus netbook cart, iMac, Manda or Innovation Station, then the possibilities continue to grow.

District webcam-enabled computers all already have some image capture software installed.  Macs: Photobooth, iPad2: Photobooth, netbooks: CyberLink YouCam, Manda pc: AMCap,  Windows laptop: Dell Webcam Central.   Also available on all district computers are your installed apps like ComicLife, iMovie, MovieMaker, and Photoshop which also let you capture images directly into those applications to be edited or used as needed.  (Stay tuned for future post on greenscreening in the classroom!)

Fire effect from htmlchat.net/99/snapshot
Sometimes, we want a little extra creativity in our photo applications or we can't find the installed applications.  Web2.0 sites come to the rescue again with online webcam image capture sites. There are many out there, but nice ones include:
* http://htmlchat.net/99/snapshot  - has special effects
* http://cameroid.com/snap.php   - allows you to create your own gallery online and has special effects

Perhaps you are at home and need an installable option right away.  Available for both Mac and Windows, http://www.manycam.com can be downloaded and installed for free.

Webcams can play a nice roll in the classroom. Capture student work, pose students for illustrated stories, videotape oral reports, the list goes on!  Engage students with camera technology and odds are, they will come up with other authentic uses as well.

How do you use cameras in your classroom instruction?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Paperslide Videos! Easy Way To Use Tech AND Show Learning!

This was one of my favorite Discovery Educator Network (DEN) sessions that I've attended over my many years teaching. The DEN likes to put teachers in the students' shoes sometimes and making Paperslide videos was a fun activity, engaging activity, only took 20 minutes before we were sharing, and was totally centered around a specific teaching objective.

Paper Slide Video: Solids, Liquids and Gasses from Heather Hurley on Vimeo.

Basically, Paperslide Videos are nothing more than sheets of papers that slide under the view of a recording camera. It's all done in one take, with no editing. It could be a nice way to introduce Powerpoint in that you aren't having students just jam 150 words on to a page, but they must rely on visual literacy to depict the lines from the song or their spoken lecture.  There are no faces or names in the video, so the product could go immediately onto the class blog/wiki to be shared with other students and parents. But best of all, the students are rehearsing and creating the pictures, which means in order to teach the objective, they must learn it first.

Dr. Lodge McCammon, (with the Friday Institute out of NC State University),  brings this to teachers quite frequently and he works extensively with the fine people of Discovery Education. He actually uses Paperslide Videos to explain the concept (the top video) and how to make one.

What can you do with Paperslide Videos? Some teachers use them just to capture a teacher or student-directed lecture video.  That is a great first step through the door, but another very engaging product is to make a Paperslide Video to illustrate a song.  Dr. Lodge has a lot of songs already on Discovery Education (search 'lodge' and media type 'song' to find 45 tunes organized by standard/subject/etc) or visit his other blog.

Check out what Mr. C's class did with "On The Numberline" in one class period with his Austin ISD students.

Lastly, excellent teacher in the DEN, Heather Hurley, shared a Paperslide they did on States of Matter that uses one of Lodge's songs! She used a video-sharing site, Vimeo, to share this with her colleagues and parents.  I embedded this video at the top of this post to catch your attention!

Now, the same songs can also be used in a very kinesthetic environment by having students act out the lyrics instead of drawing them.  While not a Paperslide video, the same concepts apply and the time for the product is still maintained within part of a class period.  Check out how students showed the Order of Operations in this music video.

Create your own Paperslide Videos!!   Leave a comment below with a link to one your class made. We'd love to see it.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Capture Your Screen Image!

Sometimes, the best way to show a student exactly what to look for on a webpage is to take a screenshot of the part of the page you want them to see.  Or what if you need that long serial number? A screenshot can capture that image for you to use at a later time. Screenshot utilities are built-in to the Windows and Mac OSX platforms and add great functionality.

The Mac operating system has two built-in screenshots. Holding Shift-Command-3 will capture the entire screen and put that file on the desktop. Holding Shift-Command-4 will give you a cross-hair to use to draw a selection square around the shape you wish to keep after hitting the Enter key.

The downside to Mac screenshots is that you have no quick way to change the format of the image from .png to something else.  CultOfMac.com has a video that shows how to change the format to jpg or pdf through a command line entry.  That's workable but can be intimidating.  So, I found another free alternative which does the same thing through a control panel add-on. You can download Deeper and easily install it. When you open it, it lets you change what once was hidden settings for your screenshots. Yes, I said free!

The Windows platform uses the printscreen (PrtScn) key to capture the window into the clipboard.  You can then go to Paint or a word processor and Paste the image into it. While that is easy, you have little control.  Thus enters the Snipping Tool that comes with the Windows operating system.  It will let you select some or all of the screen, save in different formats, and even annotate the image before saving.

Classroom Integration??
Again, this can be a great asset for the classroom teacher!  Capture a news heading and lead photo from a news site and have the students write interesting topic sentences for that image.  There are great web 2.0 sites that build on your instruction through simulation or games. Have the students capture their final score and turn it in for proof of work.  Or how about capturing that weird operating system error when it pops up so that the tech guy gets more than, "..it doesn't work and got some message."

How would you use the screenshot tools in the classroom?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Capturing YouTube

It's a nice thing, finding a great educational video clip on YouTube.  Using video to explain some educational idea you are teaching in the classroom is great, but modeling a valid use of a video-hosting site like YouTube to students is something the students don't see often.

In AISD, teachers are able to authenticate their way through the firewall and get access to the video. However, depending on the time of day and volume of network traffic, 'having' and 'using' YouTube access can be two different things. Enter KeepVid.com.

The trick to streaming video in the classroom is, well, not to stream it. Even DiscoveryStreaming will let you download the video clips. YouTube doesn't make it one-click easy, but KeepVid will let you take the URL of the clip, paste it into the URL block, and then download it in a few different formats.  Once downloaded, the video plays quickly without lag because it is already on the computer.

There are a number of ways to accomplish something like this; browser plugins, Safari resource list, etc. How do you use YouTube in the classroom?  What tips do you have that may help others?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Video Training and Tips for the Manda Pro All-in-One Desktop

With a number of schools just getting more all-in-one Manda desktop PCs, I thought it'd be good to re-share some support links. Most of these can be found on the AISD Cloud under the Hardware Training category.

"I don't get the big screen with all the circles. Could you explain it to me?"

"How do I add applications to the touch screen menu?"

"Can I group the apps in the EXOPC interface in folders?"

"My computer is plugged into the network. Should I turn off the wireless connection?"
Yes, you really must do that. http://austinschools.org/it/tutorial/exo_disable_wireless.swf

"I want my Manda Pro to startup to a regular Windows desktop and not the XOPC interface."

"I like the XOPC interface (the cute circle icons), but I don't want my slimy student hands touching the glass. Can I turn off the touch action on this computer?"

"I wish I could make my own cute circle icons for website shortcuts.  Is that possible?"
http://www.screencast.com/t/mtg4tFc6  (This is a more advanced tweak that any teacher can do, but it is a longer video with fairly specific steps.)

"I'm so proud of myself. I made some pretty EXOPC circular shortcuts!  How can I get them to another Manda Pro's XOPC's interface?"

"My students keep trashing my pretty arrangement and XOPC app selections. How can I quickly reset those on the computer?"
http://www.screencast.com/t/ENhx4j9Q5f7M  (Yes, it is the same video as the previous question. But it's also a nice way to back up your hard work so you only have to do it one time.)

"Can I setup my own printer?"

"I want to have all my kids view the Manda's screen.  Can I plug into a projector?"
Not without a USB video adapter. There are many varieties, but the large screen of the Manda Pro makes some adapters not very functional.  AISD Technology suggests an adapter that has the same specs as this one:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Comics In The Classroom?

Comics and graphic novels are still very popular with young readers. Year after year, they also prove to be excellent resources for teaching English acquisition classes, visually presenting complex steps, and an engaging resource for students to use to demonstrate understanding.  Visual literacy, as a concept, has been around since 1969, and using comics in the classroom is an excellent way to develop those skills.

Comic Use in the Curriculum
A Best Practice for the instructional use of comics is to start small with very narrow criteria. A first comic criteria list could include: Use 5 frames to tell the story; Use at least 5 speech bubbles; Use only photos from the server directory provided by the teacher; Show good understanding of the concept of supply and demand.  With a very defined time limit given, students can quickly create that comic.  As you repeat that assignment product, add more elements of the comic-creation tool. Elements provide backgrounds (setting), creative text art (Wow! BAM!), the ability to change and edit fonts, and to make multiple-page comics as well.

Teachers have had success with using comics to quickly tell a story, but then used that as the pre-write or outline for a written story. The student has the dialog, but also has a visual setting, a plot, and character description to draw from. 

Comic Life
Austin ISD licenses the installed application, Comic Life, for all student computers, Mac and Windows. If the application is not on your computer, teachers can easily install the application over the district network.

Comic Life uses the photo libraries on your computer (iPhoto or MyPhotos) but can navigate to any connected storage for photos or use the built-in cameras on your computer.
Pages are easy to create. One can drag one of the many page templates to the main window to start their comic.
Panels are the shapes on the page that Comic Life uses to house your images. Panels can be resized, deleted, reshaped, and edited.  Dragging and dropping an image onto a panel will make the narrowest dimension of that image fit exactly into the panel.
Dialog bubbles can be dragged up to the page. Click and drag the point of the bubble to the source of the speech. That point will now be anchored to that place while the bubble can still be moved around independently.
Narrator text box is your non-speech text, such as ‘Back at the ranch..’ .
The Lettering text is your title or few word exclamations. There are many styles with each style with the ability to be further edited.
Click on the gray right next to the page to deselect all elements on the page.
    Click on a panel to edit the panel.
    Click twice inside the panel to edit the image in the panel.
The green squares at the corners are your handles for altering your panel or image.
The curved arrow in the center is your rotation tool.
The Libraries tab provides a collection of elements to add to your page.
The Details tab provides the ability to edit any of the elements on the page.
    Click on the gray right next to the page and Details will edit the page.
    Click on a panel and Details will edit that panel.
    Click twice inside the panel and Details will edit the image.

Publishing Comic Life
http://www.opencourtresources.com/ocr/grade5/units/heritage/pdfs/heritage.jpg The easiest publishing is of course just printing the comic. Printing them on the monochrome laser printers is not always bad. Shading main ideas in colored pencil is not only very artistic, but a great way to make ‘the red shoes’ stand out on a page.

Comic Life will also export the comic as a gif image or series of images, as an html file that can be placed on a webserver for internet viewing, or as a Quicktime file.  If you have the ability to place a folder of files on a web server, the html version is great because it gives you navigation buttons for multi-page comics.  Example of web version with navigation. Publish as PDF online example (Gail Laubenthal's work).

Charles Thacker published this ComicLife reference which contains a different tutorial on using it in the classroom. 

Online Alternatives
Make Belive Comics allows you to make simple line art comics.
ToonDoo has said they are creating an education portal, but it hasn't been seen yet. ToonDoo is a nice tool, but not totally vetted for graphics and privacy.
GoAnimate is a great tool, but also is open to some non-classroom friendly graphics. They do, however, have a pay-for-use education site at GoAnimate4Schools.

Have you had a class publish their classroom comics? Do you have experience using comics with students?  Leave a comment below to share your ideas!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Print Webpages With Ease!

This short tip is specifically for that occasion where you find yourself wanting to print some information off a webpage, without wanting to print pages of embedded advertisements and meaningless content.  For example, you really like this post and you want to print it.  However, the rest of the website continues scrolling down the window to include weeks of posts.

PrintWhatYouLike.com works two different ways. You can past the URL (website address) into the big text box on their webpage, or install their bookmarklet. Click the link to 'add a bookmarklet' and them simply drag it to your bookmarks or the bookmark menu bar.  Now whenever you want to print a part of the page you are viewing, just click the bookmarklet and start editing.

The trick is that a menu will show up on the left margin that allows you to remove parts of the live page that you do want to print. As you remove graphics, sections of text, etc,  you end up minimizing what is seen in the browser window. When it is the way you want it, just click 'print'.

In our efforts to become more green in the classroom, many teachers are finding alternative to printing or at least teaching students how to reduce the amount of prints they make. Using PrintWhatYouLike, students can no selectively print small sections, saving lots of paper. Give it a shot!

What tricks do you use to reduce the amount of printer waste?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking Pictures in the Classroom! pt 3

In this last part of the series, I wanted to share some different avenues and alternatives for sharing instructional photography with students in the classroom. There is no way to cover every option, so this will hopefully open the door for greater discussion and sharing.

First off, we've discussed taking photos and getting them onto a local network. What can we do with those photos? One uniform tool that all Macs and Windows computers have in AISD is MS Powerpoint. Students can access the teacher's folder containing the photos and insert a photo onto a Powerpoint slide.  A simple criteria could be to point out 4 concepts from the lesson by drawing a line arrow to them, adding text that describes them, and saving it back to the server. Slides could be combined into one class presentation or students can take turns adding a new slide to the teacher's presentation.  Either way, the software is already on the computer, the draw tools are simple, and the students have a quick and easy way to demonstrate comprehension of the instructional goals that day.

The other computer-based idea that is often over-looked is the use of the Comic Life application available on all Mac and Windows computers. (Granted, you have have to install it, but both students and teachers have the ability to do that through district network-install tools. Ask your campus technology leadership for more information about that.)  Comic Life will access your network-saved photos and let you create graphic documents that use text, engaging graphics, and your photos to tell a story or demonstrate a point. Comic Life also can access your webcam and take the pictures directly from the camera into your Comic.

The internet includes many sites that allow you to upload something to it, edit the media, and then either save it back to your computer or publish it for public viewing.  These interactive sites make up much of the Web2.0 environment. (Web1.0 was considered the mostly access-and-view web and less interactive.) The benefit to most Web2.0 sites is that they are platform independent. I should be able to do the same thing on that site regardless of the type of computer I am using. (The recent exceptions are mobile devices that don't have Adobe Flash capabilities.)

One such Web2.0 site that works well for classroom photography is Picnik.com. Students can simply go to the site, upload a picture from their computer, edit it with filters/stickers/text/etc, and then save it back to their computer.  The great thing about Picnik is that it requires no login or account to be created. Simply upload, edit, and save back to your computer.  The graphic tools are easy to use and the creative aspects are truly engaging.

A great site for sharing photos is Posterous.com, now called Posterous Spaces. This site is great for sharing and discussing photos, docs, or other media with a class. The recent update to their services gives you a greater ability to share only with certain people, even people who don't have a Posterous Spaces account. Cell phone users can share a photo to the class site by emailing the photo and a thought-provoking comment to your Posterous email account and it's instantly up for classroom discussion.

Mobile devices also present some interesting options for using photography during instruction. There are apps for both Android and iOS that allow you to take a picture, edit and then share it with others.  I presented one such app, PhotoPad for iOS, during a recent Intel Webinar on Mobile Apps in the Classroom. (The teacher discussion can be found online!) PhotoPad gets extra credit from me because it uses the photos on the iPad, lets you draw on them, and then I could email the photo out to be shared. Combining that with Posterous makes graphic representations of classroom instruction easily shared with others for discussion. (Here's a silly example.)

This list could go on for days!  I know there will be future posts about the classroom webcam used with instruction, but this just gets us started.

Do you have experience using the camera during classroom instruction? What camera did you use? What software or website did you find helpful?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Taking Pictures in the Classroom! pt 2

One of my favorite tools in the classroom is the camera.  In Part 1, we shared some of the choices teachers may have for accessing cameras in the classroom.  So, I've captured the photo. Now what do I do with it?

Probably my biggest goal for taking photos in the classroom would be to share that photo with a particular audience (students, parents, or sister class in another part of the world). The first devices discussed in Part 1 were devices already connected to a network. Laptops, netbooks, document cameras connected to an Innovation Station, all of those are on a network and the images can be saved to a district server for easy access by the students.

Digital cameras present an alternative with other options. First, the easiest is to share the photos directly into a projector. Most cameras come with an AV cable with RCA/composite (red/white/yellow) plugs. A teacher can connect these camera to the projector and instantly share the photos with the class on the full-size classroom screen. Otherwise, the images will need to be transferred to a computer via it's USB connection cable or by inserting the camera's SD memory card into a computer-connected card reader.  Connecting the camera directly sometimes requires software or drivers to recognize the camera as a device by the computer.  Using a card-reader will allow the computer to access the saved photos as if the SD memory card were an external storage device, which it is at that point.  AISD Windows laptops and netbooks have a built-in card reader. There are also small $5-$10 USB adapters that let you plug the SD card into the USB port on any computer.

Cell phone image transfer can be a bit more challenging since there are many different types of phones and ways that each are able to get the photo to a computer. Often, the camera may come with a USB cable just like a digital camera, but let's focus on the easier and more authentic way of sharing the camera phone pictures.  Being that they are already always on a network, phones present you with the opportunity to share immediately to many different Web 2.0 photo sharing sites. Teachers can quickly learn how to manage the classroom online resource so that the photos are shared in a responsible and curriculum-supporting way.

The last post in this series will deal with the instructional use of sharing photos and using some easy Web 2.0 tools to do so.

What tips would you have for teachers for getting photos to a networked location when sharing?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Taking Pictures in the Classroom! pt 1

One of my favorite tools in the classroom is the camera.  Whether it is a document camera, digital camera or camera phone, the ability to capture learning as it happens makes it possible to draw on that experience any number of times afterward.  In AISD, most classrooms have multiple avenues to take advantage of cameras during instruction.

Dude, Where's My Camera? For starters, nearly every classroom has a digital camera since every classroom has a teacher with a laptop. District-issued teacher laptops all have webcams above the monitor. Every campus also has quite a large number of student netbooks that also have webcams installed.

One of my favorite classroom instruments is the normal digital camera. I'm a fan of the Canon Elph Powershots because of the connecting to almost any computer without adding drivers and because of the high quality still and video shots you can get for not too much money.  Many teachers in AISD have access to a Canon digital camera, but forget that it also takes video!

While we are covering small and relatively inexpensive devices, there has been a growth in the desire for smart-devices in the classroom. More classrooms have camera-enabled iPod Touches, iPads, and a few Android tablets as well.

Don't forget the other camera in almost every room, the cell phone camera! It's easy to whip that out and take a quick photo or video of an instructional sample that you wish to share. More schools across the country are starting to relax the 'no cell phone' rules for students (a , b). Instead of banning them because they could be misused, they are putting them into instructional practice and modeling appropriate phone behavior for students.  Students are using phones to complete quick online quizzes, post questions to the class website, perform quick internet research, or even share photographed examples of the curricular concept that day.

The use of document cameras in the classroom is finally starting to mature from the 'digital overhead' use to being a live demonstration and media capture tool. Almost two-thirds of classrooms in all of our schools have doc cams already attached to a projector.  Many other schools have realized the instructional use and purchased more with their own budgets. The Lumens D265C has been the district standard since the creation of the Innovation Stations, but just about every document camera on the market now provides you with the ability to capture still or video images.

What is your favorite classroom camera resource?
The next post in this series will look at software that can be used to get photos from camera to computer.
Photo credit:  http://www.dvguru.com/media/2005/12/Cell_Phone_Camera.jpg

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Registration for TCEA 2012

Registration will soon open for TCEA's 32 Annual Technology Convention.  AISD has historically sent many teachers each year to this fantastic professional development and technology awareness opportunity. This year, each campus or teacher will need to provide their own registration fee. Plan ahead now and find a way to go if you can, but there will be no district-wide initiative to send teachers this year.

Why go?
  • There will be over 400 sessions and hands-on workshops available on many different topics
  • The exhibit floor is packed every year with current and emerging technology for the classroom
  • Keynote speakers this year include Tori Bellici (of Mythbuster fame) and Kim Komando
  • Technology leaders from Discovery Education, Leslie Fisher, and Tammy Worcester among others will be presenting, and they are always crowd-pleasers!
  • Build your Professional Learning Network by meeting and exchanging ideas with teachers from across the country
Each year, AISD teachers have had to weigh the cost of three days of professional development against three days away from the classroom. This year, TCEA has added two new options for registration.
  • The One-Day Convention Reg allows for a less expensive $97 (Early Bird) fee for attending the free concurrent sessions and exhibit hall, but just for one day.
  • Premium Convention Reg gives not only full convention access all week, but this year includes access to all 50 and 90 minutes workshops for no additional fee. (Instead of paying additional charges for each paid workshop, you register for as many as you wish and incur no additional fees.) The Premium Early Bird cost is $257.
  • ...and the regular three day Early Bird registration remains at $165 this year.
Lots of learning opportunities this year!  Hope you can make it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Free Online Webinar Hosted by Intel - Aug 30th!

Intel provides FREE webinars throughout the year for educators. This Wednesday evening at 7pm CST, they are presenting "Mobile Apps for the Upcoming School Year".  Register to attend and join the discussion on how teachers are using mobile apps in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning.

The webinar is free, but you must register to attend.  7pm , August 30, 2011

For more webinars and free educator resources from Intel, go to the Intel Education : Teachers Engage Community and find people from across the world who are benefiting from sharing their ideas, questions, and answers to technology use in the classroom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hot Apps for Hot Weather?

It's Hot, Hot, Hot!It's official!  We have beaten the record of 69 days in a row of 100 degree or better weather in Austin, Texas. It looks like we will have no problem adding on more days through this weekend to the current streak.

So, how can we take advantage of this authentic learning experience?  One easy way is to use the new All-in-one desktop computers (Manda Pro or 'that really wide black computer) that most campuses received last year.  Each computer comes with a new EXOPC user interface that looks like a bunch of circles on the screen. The user can click the + sign at the top left to add new apps from the AISD EXO app store.

There are many apps already in the store waiting for you to download them.  Today, you can click in the Search box and type 'weather'.  Two apps will show up, one for the Weather Underground and a children's app called Whats the Weather.  Simply click on one and then click the Download button to install.

The Weather Underground site (also found at http://wunderground.com/ ,) has forecasts for almost every inch of the United States and many international sites.  What kind of activities can you do with a live weather site?
  • A class can compare our 104 degree weather today with the weather in a desert town or mountain top town.
  • Use the Local Weather tab to find a link for historical data. Using today's weather as a base, predict what the weather would be like on another day of the year, January 22nd12001  for example.
  • Look at the Resources tab and use the Climate Change link to find information geared to an older student.  How are they graphing temperature anomalies on the map? What do the symbols represent?
  • Pull down data that you can put into a spreadsheet that shows 'change in weather'.  Create a quick graph that shows a historical perspective on rainfall in Central Texas. Can the class make inferences based on the charts?
The district has some training videos available inside the district about the new Manda Pro desktops.  Watch the video "Add Desktop Applications..." to see how easy it is to add apps from the EXO Apps store.

How can you bring the heat into your instruction while we are still breaking records? Do you have a favorite weather app or website?

Monday, August 22, 2011

QR Codes at School?

Over the summer, I met a good number of teachers in workshops that have already been preparing to use QR codes in their classroom.  QR codes are the square bar codes that webcams (with certain software) can read and direct the user to a website, send a text, or perform various other functions.  I posted last year, and felt called to post again, about using the small netbooks that are on every campus, to read and use these special codes.

Creating a QR code is pretty easy.  The are various sites that will do this for you; http://goo.gl and http://qrcode.kaywa.com/   are two good starting points.  You simply type the website address (URL) into the box and click the button to generate the square code. (Goo.gl makes you click the details button afterward to see the code.)

What can you do with codes? Akins High School librarian, Bonnie Hauser, shared a Livebinder collection of links all about QR codes.  I saw a couple of middle schools this summer using QRs scavenger hunt or building tour signs to engage the incoming sixth graders during summer camp.  One of my favorite online resources is an Englishman named Tom Barrett, who encourages teachers to share ideas in Google Docs, (his 28 Ways to Use QR Codes is now up to 40!) Students can support the community by posting codes for informative purposes in public places.

Great ideas, but you still have to have a camera device to read them.  I found that teachers can download and install QuickMark for PC onto the small netbooks that each campus received last year. After installing the software, students can turn it on and point their computer at a QR code. The netbook will read it and preform the action stored within the code.

The following video, despite my repeated reference to Q codes ;( , shows how a large projected QR code can be seen across the room and direct student netbooks to a webpage.

QR codes can provide a functional tool that mobile devices and webcams can use to access data and preform some functions without typing complicated web addresses.

How have you used QR codes? What is another way that a QR code could play a unique in the classroom?

Oh, and you can have artistic fun with them as well!  ;)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Differentiated Instruction

Dennis Grice is an award-winning educator out of Southern California who champions technology for the classroom. He shared a blog post recently about differentiated instruction, providing a different view of how we can see our students AND teachers. It's worth the time to read it here at the beginning of the year.

As educators, we have to remember that our students learn in many different ways and we are tasked with meeting those needs all year. Technology use in the classroom must also bear the weight of differentiation since not all of our students (or teachers) have the same level of technology experience.  It is incumbent upon us to not avoid authentic opportunities for technology integration because all of our students won't be fearless with the new concept, but we can use our junior Steve Jobs in the classroom to help us scaffold a lesson so we can have that experience.

How can we provide a range of technology instruction in the classroom?

  • Pre-teach a small group of your techno-fearless students a particular skill that will be used during a lesson. They can help provide leadership in small groups when you can't be everywhere at once.
  • Use Science-lab procedures when working in small groups. Assign four different roles in the group that rotate for the next project.  Techno-reluctant students can observe and learn skills while still being an active part of the project.
  • Just as we sometimes provide a rich assortment of student product materials for certain lessons, we can provide the opportunity for students to use technology tools that meet their capacity for showing excellence.  Some students may just be showing minimal proficiency with MS Word document creation while another may use Publisher to show the same lesson outcome.  Teacher-provided photo banks can help beginners focus on the content rather than the search for the perfect photo online, while other student may have the opportunity to take their original photos for the same exercise. 
  • An beginning-level user may start a project with a teacher-provided template while a student who has a deeper understanding may be able to create their own document from scratch with more freedom.
There are just a few ideas. What ways have you found to provide multiple levels of instruction using technology in your class?   What tools do you think provide a good opportunity to differentiate during a particular lesson?

We look forward to continuing this discussion this year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Technology Leadership on Campus

One of the people I follow online is a principal named Lyn Hilt from Pennsylvania. She provides a very enthusiastic viewpoint for her administrator peers about the role of technology in the classroom.  A post of hers was shared in my online professional circle about how the bar for technology use is being raised for administrators and how principals across the country are rising to that call.  Read her post here: http://lynhilt.com/the-bar-has-been-raised/ .

Now, I was very fortunate to provide some workshop time for many of our administrators here in Austin, right before school started, and I was impressed with the desire for appropriate use of technology that many of them shared.  We are just out of the gate now with a number of new online tools for assessment and communication and there does seem to be a general understanding that these tools can make a good difference in how we serve our kids in school.

I'd like to thank all of our AISD Principals for their service to our district and the leadership that they can bring to teachers for an advancement in authentic use of technology in AISD teaching and learning.

Friday, August 12, 2011

iPads in Education

Through the years, certain things have made their way into the classroom that have looked really cool, but in reality may not have been the best idea.  One year, a parent donated some prize box rewards for my classroom and I was very grateful. I was, however, taken aback when I realized that some of the rewards were brand new, classroom-targeted, fruit-scented glue sticks.  I was always told from a young age, "Don't sniff glue", and had to rethink that particular reward. Not everything new has a place in our classrooms.

The iPad also provides a reason to have that discussion. The money spent on an iPad just to be a centers-station reward game just isn't worth it to me. However, there are certain populations and innovative teachers in our schools that give great value to iPads and other mobile media devices.  In a July article in The Transforming Education Through Technology Journal, Peter Levy shared experiences from teachers about how their use of iPads made dramatic differences in their classroom instruction.

We don't, however, have to look past our district to find innovative teachers who are using iPads in authentic and powerful ways. I had the honor of assisting Lora Netherland, a Life Skills teacher at Clayton Elementary, as she presented her experiences to a crowd of teachers during the 2011 Texas Computer Educators Association conference.  She uses her iPad in various ways to help non-vocal students communicate and students with limited motor skills show understanding of concepts. Her video records show an amazing growth in skill and confidence in some of her students. The ease of use and multitude of specialized software available for the iPad provided great support for Netherland's already masterful teaching in the classroom.

How have you seen iPads being used in innovated or effective and authentic ways in the classroom?  What other mobile devices have you seen to be effective in ways that computers couldn't do as well?

There will be ongoing posts about the use of mobile technology in our district. Please share your experiences as we take that journey.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to school for the 2011-2012 school year! Many things have grown on our AISD Technology tree this summer and the fruit is being picked from our trees.  Over the next few weeks, teachers and students will learn about some amazing new tools and opportunities for using technology in meaningful and authentic ways for teaching and learning.

We hope you find this blog a useful tool for learning more about district initiatives, tips for using your AISD technology effectively in the classroom, and also for learning about ways to use other technology resources with our provided set of tools.  As you follow along with us, please use the comments on each blog to discuss the topic shared or to request topics for future blog posts.

As we post things that you may find useful, we encourage you to share the posts with colleagues inside and outside of the district. The larger this community builds, the more ideas we have to draw from and the more rich our instruction can be for our students.

Have a great year!