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Category Archives: For Teachers
Google Reader has changed once again, this time adding the ability to share links to other kinds of social websites like Facebook and Twitter. Now you can also add your own, with the help of this article.
Teachers in Okaloosa County, Florida are getting all their laptop computers replaced with desktop machines. We’ve all pondered the idea of mobile laptops for teachers that they could use at home or at work and have full access to install programs and be responsible for backing up files on, but what are the benefits?
From a technology staff stand point, we don’t really care. Apple has finally created desktop iMacs and laptops that are easy to open and maintain. iBooks have 44 screws on them to remove the harddrive or optical drive; today’s iMacs have an easily removable glass pane and a few screws and MacBooks are also a few screws from removing the bottom cover to access all the easily removeable guts. Sadly, budgets keep us from buying the newest and greatest for all the schools at once. So I’ll be keeping my hex wrench and screw driver readily available.
From at data view, mobile laptops are a nightmare. Without joining them to a network server, we can’t be sure all a users files are backed up. They are easily stolen, left at home, dropped and attacked by cable-loving pets. In a county with 23 schools worth of teachers, I couldn’t imagine troubleshooting computers that I didn’t know what the base installed software/operating system was, assuming we also gave teachers free reign over their laptops like NETS*T programs do. When desktops break, we hook two computers up together and “clone” them from one another, solving 95% of software/operating system issues, leaving user data untouched thanks to a server.
Do we also need wireless access because of the nature of a laptop to be moved? I don’t think so. With no cheap solution to building wide wireless access, we struggle to keep up with 20% of a building’s faculty armed with ipods and laptops by installing . iPads have also been adding to that problem.
But is the problem really making the choice for teachers instead of offering it, maintaining the network for desktops and only doing troubleshooting and repairs for laptops without data management? It’s an interesting debate to follow, for sure.
I’ll be the first to admit, if being on the technology staff isn’t proof enough, I love new technology. I like the advances that technology makes and what it allows us to do easier or more of. I like that we can do things we normally don’t do or do it in places we usually don’t. I think in the name of technology, almost any new product is an investment in the greater good for us all.
But what about teachers? We spend millions of dollars on classroom technology and even have staff dedicated to looking at new technology, evaluating it’s usefulness in the classroom and even creating sample lesson plans to use with it. We are digital salesmen. We see a valuable experience in something and practice it, offer it, and teach it.
One has to wonder what the saturation point is or if there even is one. Is it correct to think that too much technology isn’t a problem but on a case-by-case basis per teacher? Is it up to the teacher, administrator or IT department of any business or school to decided how much technology is right for getting the job done? Does the saturation point constantly move as new technology is adapted to?
I quickly evaluate someone when I talk to them and decided if I should introduce a new technology to help alleviate a problem. Is the person I’m talking to more worried about getting the job done at that moment or trying to figure out a way to do the job better? How do they react when I bring up a new website tool or piece of equipment? Do they ask me if there is technology to fix the problem and if there is, how many steps does it add to their routine?
And what about the human element of learning or teaching by computers? How does that affect students relationship skills or work ethics? If a child can always create a slide show presentation because the tools are easy to use, how will that student cope with not being able to consistently produce equally comparable results when using household objects to create the science project they need to turn in. The direct analog of computer tools (glue, scissors, paper, markers, etc.) are never as easy to use as the font menu or cut / paste in PowerPoint. Will the student and parents be less able to work on a project together if the student is used to using Google to find out how to do things on a computer instead of being able to communicate an assignment and their ideas and plans to a parent to get the science project built?
This morning I got an invitation to try out Google Wave. It’s a new collaboration tool that goes far beyond anything online today. To say that it is like anything we currently use would be doing it an injustice. But also, it’s not for everyone.
Google Docs is online collaboration for word documents, spreadsheets and presentations. It’s contained in those abilities. Google Wave is more open to being a completely editable form of communication. If you send me an email in Wave, which itself is called a ‘wave’, I can respond to your wave (called a ‘blip’), edit your wave, upload pictures and movies to it, add other people to see it and all work on it together. Work on what? Anything you want.
The apparent obstacle in this “preview” that I’m in is that only people with Google Wave accounts can see or email each other. I have a separate @googlewave.com email address, but it’s pointless for me to try to use this with anyone else.
To get a better understanding about Wave, here is the Google Help page about communicating in Waves.
I just found Google Moderator.
Basically, it’s a tool for letting people at a meeting, in a classroom and even before an event/class help you, the speaker or moderator decide on what to cover in as your subject matter.
Before your lecture, you could give out the link to your “series” and they can make suggestions about what they’d like to hear about and then vote on each others suggestions (including your own!).
Of course then, during the event, you can let people suggest and vote live while your on stage or in front of your crowd. And by showing the series screen on a projector, they can all watch the topics be created and be voted up and down.
This would be really handy before conferences, staff meetings, subcommittee meetings and open forums or town hall-style meetings.
This is one of Google Lab’s creation, so it’s not a full fledge product.
Google has been busy this Summer, updating features on Docs just in time for the new school year. Adding an equation editor to Spreadsheets, subscripts and superscripts to Documents as well as translations services.
Also to note, Google Sites (their webpage buider/hosting site) now supports posting Docs to your website as well as Calendar, Maps and Picasa (photos). Create a webpage and post a presentation, a photo album or a custom Google Map in minutes.
And be on the look out from Microsoft’s version (hey, they’re not ALL that bad) of Docs called Office Live. I’ve just barely scratched the surface with it, but as long as it’s free…
I love PowerPoint when it’s used correctly as a visual aid and not a presentation crutch. Many times I go by classrooms and students are in the front of rooms giving group presentations (a lot more than group work than when I was in school). I just wonder if they are learning how to use it correctly?
So I was glad to see this article in Wired about how PowerPoint is over used so often and in all the wrong ways.
I was just sent a link to the website Etherpad.com, a new site for working with text documents online that you can collaborate with other people in “really real-time”. I’m a huge fan of websites like these for educational purposes. Much like Google Docs, the site allows multiple people to edit a single document online, track who made what changes, keep a history of saved changes and then download the document to save or print. It’s a very clean site with minimal tools and buttons and clearly labeled menus and options.
The biggest differences with the Etherpad is that people who are used to Microsoft Office will find the flexibility of this word processor severely lacking. There are no tables, no importing pictures or in-depth layout/design tools. It’s a straight up text editor.
The free version of the site allows you to share a document with 8 people and you have to keep track of the pad websites yourself (maybe writing them down on paper or on your computer somewhere) or you’ll never get access back to them again. Also, any “pad” that you create cannot be deleted. Ever. Etherpad will keep links to documents permanently available for anyone to access that has the link address. Only paid accounts will have features like that, but it’s not available at the moment.
For quick and dirty text documents that you need to work on personal/work non-sensitive information with and don’t care who ever sees it, Etherpad is just for that. There’s hardly a learning curve (like there is with Google Docs), but you may quickly realize the absence of features and security that other software/websites offer.
Here is a short screencast from Etherpad posted a demo of the site and what it can do.