Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Hour of Code Event

December12

On December 7, each grade level of our school spent an hour coding. Why did we take time out of our jam packed curriculum to gather in the cafeteria and go through tutorials? Because we can’t have our students only be consumers…We need to be fostering creators for this ever expanding digital world.

Computer Science is a subject that historically was for a select few, the engineering-minded. However, that thinking has changed. We left the read-only web behind and catapulted into the read-write web (2.0) in the first decade of the 2000’s. Blogging, YouTube video uploading, Tweeting and Facebooking a.k.a. social media gave anyone the chance to make his/her voice and ideas heard as well as connect people beyond walls and borders, around the globe. This evolution coupled with the “there’s an app for that” phenomena and the development of iPods, iPads, tablets and Smartphones that are mini-computers at our fingertips that address almost every want and need has made it a necessity for students to comprehend that these devices are not magical and should not be taken for granted. There is a language of coding that makes the programs that run these devices and services, and there is a crucial need in the workforce to understand the basics of that language. It’s no longer for a select few.

We have no idea what the future jobs will be, but it’s a safe bet that technology will be involved.

Even if you are not convinced that everyone should know how to code, perhaps, you can agree with the important skills it cultivates:

  • problem solving
  • critical thinking
  • collaboration/team work
  • to name a few…

It was an amazing event last Thursday. Every hour a new group of 120 students entered our cafeteria. Over the week, they had watched some promotional videos about coding from Code.org; discussed some basic vocabulary during morning meetings; chosen a coding tutorial; and planned a programming pair partnership with another classmate. The atmosphere was electric as they opened up their Chromebooks at the cue of ready, set, code! Sure it was noisy, but so productive as students jumped into their Code.org activities looking to complete tasks. Did they know they were learning so many skills? Probably not… in that moment. They were excited, engaged and motivated for the challenges that were being asked of them.

I’m hoping that this event was a spark for our students to continue to learn more about coding on his/her own. I also want to encourage us to fuel that fire with coding stations at school. The Massachusetts Digital Learning and Computer Science Framework (2016) vision states, ‘The abilities to effectively use and create technology to solve complex problems are the new and essential literacy skills of the twenty-first century.’

Here is a picture of the “calm before the storm”!

Here are quotes from students:

I welcome your thoughts about coding in school.

Google+ Communities Study Group Reflection

December5

Background: a small group of grades 3-5 teachers in my district participated in a study group that allowed us to “play” in a private Google+ Community… we did a series of tasks over 10 weeks that gave us the time to figure out how we could use this Google service in our current positions.

This week, I am sharing my Google+ Communities Study Group Reflection… as always I welcome your thoughts!

My reflection:

Prior to this study group, I had dabbled a little bit in Google+ Communities. My Google Educator Level 1 and 2 training had exposed me to some basics of the service, so I knew it had potential in this era of social media and sharing. I had started looking at what communities were out there and for what people were using them. The service did not seem to be as prolific or popular as Facebook groups. It did mimic some desirable features like other social media services, such as more characters being shared than a Twitter post. (I was an early convert to Twitter and the sharing with educators world-wide, but I never have been able to get my colleagues as interested. I think the stream can be very much like drinking from the fire hose, and it takes quite some time to build up a good professional learning network to follow.) Facebook has always seemed too personal, non-work related for me, and having two accounts to keep my home and school life separate just has seemed like a lot to keep straight. I think others have felt the same as well. I also tried to get something going with a work-related Pinterest group, but again, people did not want to have two accounts to keep things segregated. As we have become more comfortable within our work Google domain, it seems like the timing may be right to harness the power of Google+ Communities since I know people (with whom I work) are not using it personally, and Google+ has the feel of other social media services that have become a way of life.

This study group was a good playground for figuring out how to set up a closed community with parameters. We were able to try out all of the features in a small environment so that the sharing did not become overwhelming. It gave us an opportunity to practice writing helpful posts and comments with each other, but it also allowed us to check out a world of sharing going on beyond our Community “walls”. We then were able to be curators, learning how to bring specific resources/posts from those outside Communities into our special interest group for a more focused share.

It’s been a very positive experience overall interacting with each other. We also have noticed the limitations. There are not as many special interest Communities out there to join in Google+. I’m not discouraged by that fact. That says to me that there is room for growth as more districts are entering Google domains. We need to build these Communities. However, the challenge is getting people to hop into something that is in its beginning stages. Many other social media arenas are running full steam now. In order for Google+ to flourish, more people have to use it. How do we get people to do that?

In my job as a Digital Learning Specialist, I would like to use Google+ as a place to pull together two other great Google services: Classroom and Team Drive. Right now, I can set up a shared folder in Team Drive with specific members and add lots of resources; however, there is no conversation mechanism in that service. It’s merely a place for me to put files. Of course, I can’t forget that I can collaborate on those files in that space with those specific members. I can create resources with these colleagues to be used with other teachers and students. Moreover, that’s where Google Classroom comes in. That’s the delivery system to students. A teacher can be added in to collaborate on the learning assignments within that environment. Again, another great space to share and work with a colleague; yet, I feel the editorial, conversation piece is missing for the educators. There is no virtual place for the teachers to reflect with each other about the student assignments (and face to face is challenging these days). Teachers could be co-teachers off all their colleagues Classrooms to see what’s going on in those rooms; however, realistically, a team of Grade 5 teachers would not want to be teaching members of every other Grade 5 teacher’s Google Classroom. That would be too many places to visit to see and find ideas/resources!

To simplify things, I have recommended setting up a teacher only Classroom in order for the teachers to reuse their posts from their respective Classrooms to the “teacher” Classroom. (Here is a recent blog post.) This set up give the teachers the opportunity to share the files/resources plus the narrative/directions delivered to students in the initial Classroom to one place. Far easier than “co-teaching” in everyone’s Classrooms! Plus, teachers would be able to write comments below the reused posts in this teacher group Classroom. Finally, a place for some reflection/conversation among colleagues!

But that’s only within that team or school. There’s so much more out there. I do think this can go a step further with a Google+ Community. With a Team Drive and a teacher Google Classroom established and linked in the About section of the private Community, the teachers can add more to the discussion and conversation of their work together in the stream of the Community, but they also have the opportunity to share entire posts of resources from other Google+ Communities there. The teachers now have the capabilities of collaborating/creating together in the Team Drive, sharing full views of work delivered to students, AND bringing other educator resources into the mix in one location. It’s one stop sharing. I’m hoping to kick my idea off with a Guided Math or math stations Google+ Community this year.

Team Drives – What’s That?

November28

If you’ve been busy with the start of the school year, you may have missed Team Drives appearing in your Google Drive. Now, that things have settled down, it seems like a good time to stop and take a look at this new option in Google Drive.

First, what is a Team Drive?

Essentially, it’s a place to share and collaborate with a specific group.

Isn’t that Google Drive already?

Yes, but Team Drive has membership… and that has its privileges… or advantages!

When you create a Team Drive, you add members and give members specific permissions for everything that is put into that Team Drive. Everyone can have full access since there isn’t a single owner which, as some us have encountered, gets a bit sticky if someone leaves a job position and is the keeper of specific folders and Docs, etc.

That’s a pro.

However, a con is that you can’t share a public view only link to items within the Team Drive.

I found this great resource being compiled by Steve Wick (@WickedEdTech) and Melissa Wilson (@MrsWilsonNV) that breaks down Team Drive options.

Team Drive seems like a great collaborative space, but I think other elements are necessary for collaboration… such as a community feel and interface.

I have this idea of combining Google+, Google Classroom and Team Drive to round everything out… that’s coming up in my next post. Stay tuned.

Keyboard Shortcuts on a Chromebook

November14

There are many things that we automatically know how to do on a laptop or computer; however, when we are on Chromebooks things can feel a little different, and our “go to” keystrokes and methods don’t seem to work.

For example, I have people ask me a lot: How do I copy and paste on a Chromebook? How do I take a screenshot?

At this point, I switch between so many devices that I don’t have everything memorized. Therefore, a little Google search yielded some resources for all of us. Here is a link to some popular keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks… and yes, screenshot key combinations are listed! Another resource I found is a little more comprehensive.

The coolest find: when you are on a Chromebook, press these 3 keys: Ctrl+Alt+/ .

An interactive onscreen keyboard will appear. Now, press on the Shift, Ctrl, Alt or Search keys (either separately or even various combinations on your physical keyboard), and the onscreen keyboard will display a menu of different tasks that can be performed when combing with other keys. I love that there is a built-in reference right on the Chromebooks! This is a must try!

 

Use the Google Classroom Reuse Post Feature to Share Assignments and Resources with Colleagues

November7

Google Classroom’s reuse a post feature is very handy. With the start of the new school year, teachers have to make an important decision. Do they keep their last year’s Google Classrooms and remove former students? Or should they archive the old Classroom so it can be referenced and start a fresh one for new students?

Once I tell teachers how easy it is to reuse and modify an old post from an Archived Classroom, usually the decision is easy. After all, who wants to reinvent the wheel? Teachers spend a lot of time finding great resources, designing templates and crafting spot-on directions. These items can be tweaked and used in whole or part at another time with students… perhaps, during this new school year?

Likewise, that stellar assignment that you posted in your current Google Classroom(s) or archived one(s) can be shared with your colleagues as well.

Here’s how:

  1. Make a Google Classroom for your group.
  2. Invite colleagues to be co-teachers (About page).
  3. In the stream of that Classroom, click on the + and choose “Reuse post”.
  4. Select the Class where you made your great original post (announcement, assignment, etc.) for students.
  5. Click the Reuse button.
  6. Unless you want to add any other info, click Assign.

The post will appear in your group’s Google Classroom for all of your co-teacher’s to see. (Bonus! Since you are teachers with active emails, everyone will receive an alert that you added to the stream. This notification is perfect since most of us get so busy we forget to go check things out… without a nudge.)

And it gets even better… people can comment or ask questions below your post in the stream about what you’ve shared. You even could add additional information, such as tips about prep work, or maybe, other possible modification ideas that you may have.

Wait… it’s not over yet… because you posted it to this shared Google Classroom, now your colleagues can reuse your post in their own Google Classrooms!

Here’s how:

  1. Colleague (co-teacher) goes to his/her own Google Classroom(s).
  2. In the stream, clicks on the + and chooses “Reuse post”.
  3. Selects your shared Class for your group where you shared your great post (announcement, assignment, etc.) with colleagues.
  4. Clicks the Reuse button.
  5. Colleague modifies/adjusts/adapts the post for his/her students as necessary.
  6. Clicks Assign (if ready to give to students… or Draft or Schedule).

“Give a penny, take a penny” throughout the year: Sharing your posts to the shared Google Classroom and then reusing other colleague’s to your own.

This method seems like a great fit for Personal Learning Communities, grade level teams and departments. What do you think of this use of Google Classroom?

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