Tuesday, October 30, 2012

National Digital Writing Month

In a little more than 36 hours national Digital Writing Month (DigiWriMo) commences and you or your students should consider participating.  With a structure similar to another November writing celebration, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), DigiWriMo poses the challenge of crafting 50,000 words of digital text in just 30 days.  The format of your text may very depending on the weekly writing challenges, but more than likely you will find yourself composing more than a few blog posts, Twitter essays, and collaborative wiki novels.

Personally, I am not exactly sure what is in-store for the next 30 days, but even if I only write 25,000 words that is still quite a bit of storytelling and a great mental workout.  The program is sponsored by Hybrid Pedagogy and the English and Digital Humanities program at Marylhurst University. If this sounds interesting you can join in the fun with little more than your email address.  And here is a small secret I've learned from NaNoWriMo - you can always just follow along this year by reading the regular emails sent out by DigiWriMo and actually put the prompts into practice at another time.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Writing Felonies

One of my edtech colleagues and English teacher in Monterey, Kevin Brookhouser, recently created a video series he uses with his students called Writing Felonies.  These humorous and sometimes interactive videos highlight common grammar mistakes many of us make when writing essays, blog posts, and Facebook updates.  You might find these videos handy for using with your students.  Some of my favorites include:
Kevin's Writing Felonies also demonstrate a new type of educational content appearing on YouTube - teacher created videos.  These short films are often only 2-5 minutes and teach key concepts educators find themselves repeatedly explaining in class or students struggle to fully grasp.  Last week YouTube announced the ten finalists for their YouTube Next EDU Guru program and in nearly every case the film producers are also educators.  Need help with Biology, American History, Spanish, or Japanese?  These teachers will get you started and along with Kevin they are finding new opportunities to share their expertise and reach students through video.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

gClass Folders - Automated Sharing

Google Docs are great, but one of the biggest headaches is the mess that can easily be created when students start sharing files with you.  Quickly your Drive folder can become so disorganized you can only find items by searching for them with keywords.  One method many of us use to remedy this problem is to create folders for groups or individual students where students can drop their work.  However, setting up these folder can be very tedious.

Last night I had the opportunity to check out an EducationOnAir session from Bjorn Behrendt, an education technology coordinator in Vermont.  Bjorn has developed a quick and easy process to create folders in Google Drive for all of his students from one spreadsheet in just a few minutes.  His method, which he calls gClassFolders results in three types of folders being created:
  • Class View - Files that are view able by everyone in the class, but students cannot edit (ex: syllabus, project descriptions, rubrics).
  • Class Edit - Files that are editable by everyone in the class (ex: group projects, collective notes, brainstorming pages).
  • Student Dropbox - A folder that is shared only between you and an individual student.  This can be used as a place for students to turn in assignments.   
I tested it out this morning and the process works brilliantly! Creating your own collection of gClassFolders is simple.  Bjorn has directions on his site, but here is a more detailed set.
  1. Create a new spreadsheet using this template.
  2. Add all of you student and class information (or copy and paste it from a PowerSchool report).  You can ignore the Teacher column.
  3. Click on gClassFolders in the menu bar just to the right of Help
  4. Choose Step3-Create Folder and Shares.  (You can ignore Step1 and Step2 is only necessary if your students are not in alphabetical order by last name.)
  5. The gClassFolders script will run and during the process a red box will appear on your screen.  Click Ok.
  6. Once the box has disappeared run the script again, your folders will be created, and you will see a collection similar to the ones in the picture above in your Google Drive.
Now you might be wondering, what about new students?  After you run gClassFolders you will need to add new students manually.  However, periodically creating folders for or two new students and adding them to the Class Edit and View folders just takes a minutes.  

This link will take you to Bjorn's EducationOnAir session if you would like to check it out yourself.  Let me know if you have any questions.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Google Art Project

Way back in February 2011 (remember, this is digital age...things move quickly) Google launched the Google Art Project.  This partnership initially started with 17 international museums, but earlier this year Google announced new agreements with 151 museums from 40 countries.  Currently, the online gallery has approximately 32,000 pieces of art from 46 museums and Google is in the process of scanning and digitizing artwork from the remaining locations.  Through the Google Art Project teachers can easily find and share high-quality images to share with their students.  However, it provides some features no other online resource is capable of doing including

  • Virtual Field Trips - Want to take your students to the Tate, MoMA, or Getty?  Perhaps you would like to see the art displayed at the White House or Versailles? Using the same technology as found in StreetView, Google has worked with dozens of museums throughout the world to create virtual, self-guided tours of the art on display called Museum View.  In many cases the images viewable through these tours are higher quality than you could get standing in front of the velvet rope in person.
  • Curate Your Own Gallery - Through Google Art Project you can find curated collections, such as the ones featured here.  However, with a Google account (which all staff and 6-12 students already have) users can develop their own galleries using artwork from any museum.  These galleries are initially private, but once created can be made public.  This would make for a fascinating student project.
So take a few moments to check out the Google Art Project.  You will not be disappointed.  This video also provides a nice overview of the site...and while you're watching videos you might also like this behind the scenes look at how Google scans the work.  Finally, there is a Google EducationOnAir Hangout on November 8th where you can hear from teachers who have been using this resource in their classroom.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Ninjas and Power Searchers

6th Graders Master Google Searching

PFAA 6th graders have just finished a unit on mastering Google Searching. Instead of me lecturing and giving them unoriginal, mundane questions to practice their search skills, they took part in Google's Power Searching course. Though the course would be demanding for most adults, 66% of my students successfully passed the course! They were rewarded with special Google certificates for being certified Google Power Searchers! In addition, they have been deepening their understanding of the Google Apps by participating in the NCS Google Ninja Training Program. The students work at their own pace to learn Searching, Drive, Sites, Calendar, and Mail. Each app has a white belt test they must pass before moving on to the green belt and then the black belt and then the master level. Each test is increasingly more difficult and challenging. As of today, 96% of the 6th graders have a white belt in Google Searching and are on their way to completing all the white belt levels. The program is so comprehensive and engaging but also gives the students exposure to real world use of Google. By the time they are in 7th grade, they will be expert Googlers! So if you need any help looking something up on Google, ask a 6th grader!
Jeanne Feeney

Solving Equations with Video

As we saw in yesterdays's YouTube post, video can be a great tool for introducing content and generating inquiry-based conversations.  However, video can also be used as a tool for helping students demonstrate their understanding of a particular concept.  This week Alicia Carter's 6th grade students completed a hands-on unit where they learned how to solve equations.  As a culminating activity each group was responsible for reteaching one of the concepts on video.  Using the camera tool on the iPad and some basic classroom equipement every group created their own video demonstrating one of the key skills for solving an equation.  Now Alicia has a great authentic assessment from each group where she can hear and see where they might be making any mistakes or are struggling with a particular concept.  On top of that she also has a group of students who are hungry for more - they asked if they could view each other's videos and provide feedback for homework.  If you are interested in checking out Alicia's videos for this project they can be found on her teacher website.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

YouTube in the Classroom

Once upon a time, not too long ago, YouTube was little more than cat videos and kids publishing their latest skateboarding moves.  Times have changed.  YouTube is quickly becoming the world's online broadcast platform and as a result has an increasing amount of educational content.

As a matter of fact, last week on World Teachers' Day Google announced that YouTube now has over 1,000 educational channels.  However, there is so much content that one of the trickiest challenges can be sorting through all of it to find the videos you actually want to use with your students.  To make your search a bit easier, here are three places I would recommend starting.

  • YouTube Teachers - Over the past two summers educators across the nation have worked with California's Computer Using Educators (CUE) to develop playlists of curated videos along standards or key concepts.  Once you are on the page scroll past the logo and click on the Classroom Videos tab.
  • YouTube EDU Channels Directory - Many organizations or individuals that with high-quality content construct their own channels.  YouTube has put together a directory of these channels.  Check out the primary and secondary, higher education and lifelong learning portions of the directory.
  • TEDEd - The makers of the famous TED Talks recently started working with educators to create high quality animated versions of their lessons.  All of these videos live on YouTube.  However, searching for them on TEDEd can be an efficient way to find the one you can use in class.
Once you find the videos that are perfect for your class consider constructing a playlist by theme or topic.  Playlists are automatically public, so feel free to share these with other teachers or post them on your website for students to preview for homework or personal learning.  Finally, consider putting your students to work finding content for you.  With a short Google Form (like this) you could easily collect resources for next year. 


Google Voice in the Classroom

Have you ever considered setting up a homework helpline? Perhaps you're chaperoning an upcoming field trip and even-though nearly every student has a cell phone you don't feel completely comfortable giving out your personal phone number. Or maybe you would like to have your students record an upcoming speech, but don't have any recording devices in your classroom. Have no fear Google Voice is here!

This free service provided as part of Google Apps for Education is available for all teachers and staff to use by going to the Google Voice website. As part of your Google Voice account you will have a new phone number from which you can send and receive text messages, as well as place and receive phone calls. These text messages and phone calls can even be forwarded to another phone and are always saved in your Google Voice inbox.

 Google Voice also provides two features most other services do not - voicemail transcription and the ability to download the voicemails as MP3 files. The ability to download voicemails as a file might not seem like an obvious benefit until you think about using your Google Voice account as a recording service. For example, imagine you teach a world langage class or are working on oral language fluency. Have your students phone in a dialog. Suddenly, you have a recording of their work for assessment. These ideas and more for using Google Voice in education can be found on the Google Voice page of the NCS PD Portal. Please let me know if you have any questions.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Welcome to the NCS EdTech News blog!  On this site you will find links to stories and online resources for using technology to minimize the transactional and maximize the relational. Consider it another professional development venue for extending the conversation around the use of digital tools to help students become active, engaged, and literate 21st century citizens.  Most of the tools discussed here will be free and ubiquitous or resources to which you already have access.  Occasionally, you will also find stories for how your fellow NCS teachers and teachers across the world are using these tools with their students.

Check back often or even better yet subscribe to the blog with your email address or add it to your Google Reader or Flipboard feeds.  You will find a few new posts each week, along with additional writers Remember, blogging is a two-way conversation, so a critical component to using this medium is not only reading the posts, but also adding your own thoughts and ideas in the form of comments.  Do you need to comment on every post?  Of course not, but occasional comments are helpful for keeping the writers motivated.


Photo: Welcome Sign by Nutmeg Designs on Flickr