Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Powerful Chrome Apps

This morning I had the pleasure of working with our VLA staff and like all of my weekly workshops I learned way more than I taught.  As we explored options for setting up Goole Drive Offline (where anyone can view and edit Docs and Presentations without an internet connection using Chrome - check it out), Linda Hoang and the rest of the VLA staff started sharing some of the more powerful Chrome apps they and their students have been using this year. This lead to an amazing 30-minute journey through the Education section of the Chrome App Store.

Chrome apps are usually free and work with any computer (Mac, Windows, Chromebook) in the Chrome web browser.  To download or install a Chrome app you just need to be signed into the the browser (or Chromebook), which means this should only be done on a computer where you have logged in under your personal account.

All of the apps listed below are ones students could easily use at home or school.  Take a few minutes to check them out.  Additionally, we have a Chrome Apps section to the NCS Professional Development Portal.


Desmos Graphing Calculator - If you are around my age you might recall that $100+ graphing calculator you needed in high school and college.  It's now free and available as a Chrome app ( these days...).  Similar to your TI-81 users can easily enter equations and individual points to generate graphs.  These graphs can then be saved for later use, printed, or exported as images (all things I don't I remember my TI-81 being able to do).

Daum Equation Editor - Yes, Google Docs does have an equation editor, but sometimes it is a bit wonky and difficult to use.  The Daum Equation Editor allows you to quickly and simply create equations for math or science that then saved as images and easily imported into other documents.

Geogebra - Kristen Miller first introduced me to this a few weeks ago as an iPad app, but Geogebra is also a Chrome app that allows users to create and manipulate functions in algebra, geometry, calculus or physics.  As Kristen showed me it is a handy resource for students to demonstrate their understanding of mathematical concepts in the real world.  Her students are going to be using it for an amazing upcoming project.  I won't let the cat completely out of the bag, but it involves the game Angry Birds!

Duolingo - Interested in practicing your Spanish, French, German or Italian skills?  Are you slightly competitive and like to compete against your friends?  Duolingo allows you to do both in one free and well-designed app.  Once signed up users make their way through thematic challenges where they have to master translation, listening, and pronunciation skills for a given language.  It used to only be a smartphone app, but now it is also free for Chrome.

BioDigital - BioDigital is an interactive, 3D human body where users can explore and peel away different body systems.  Think of it as Google Earth for the human body.  As you click on objects they are labeled and provide different pieces of background knowledge.  The app is anatomically correct, so might not be perfect for all audiences.

Typing Web Tutor - As we all know by 4th grade students have to be able to type a single page in a single setting according the Common Core ELA Standards.  As a result, a variety of typing programs have started springing up.  Typing Web is a free Chrome app that also has a teacher management portion for our technology electives.  Another highly rated one is Typing Club

Statistics for Active Typing - Curious how quickly you type?  Statistics for Active Typing is a Chrome Extension (similar to an app, but always runs in the background) that tracks your typing speed as you conduct your day-to-day activities in Chrome.  It is a bit nerdy, but I have noticed that during the few months I have had it installed my typing speed as increased as I have set personal goals.

Cite This for Me - This is another Chrome extension that provides citations in any format for the webpage on which you happen to be reading.  This citation can then be copy-and-pasted into a document and manipulated (if necessary) to match a particular style guide.  It is a handy scaffold for helping students with their citations.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Doctopus & Goobric - Making Your Google Docs Life Easier

Google Drive and all of the tools contained within it (Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings) are extremely powerful document creation and collaboration resources.  However, when you are using them with 165 students management of these files can quickly become an organizational nightmare.  Anyone who has had to dig through the email avalanche created by six periods of middle school students sharing their essays can completely understand this dilemma.

Doctopus and Goobric.  Yes, you read those words correctly.  Doctopus and Goobric are a Google script and Chrome extension with funny names that can make your Google Docs teaching life much easier.  The Docopus script allows you to create one spreadsheet for an assignment that once complete contains a row for each student with the following information
  • Name, Email Address, and Period 
  • Link to the studnet's version of the assignment
  • Information about when the assignment was last editing
  • Columns for grade and feedback that can emailed directly back to the students
When you set up the assignment spreadsheet using Doctopus you can determine who has editing or viewing rights and even embargo the assignment for grading (each student no longer has editing rights) all with just a few clicks.  Once the project is complete you can even transfer ownership of document to individual students.  Doctopus works whether you're setting up individual or group projects.  The Chrome extension, Goobric simply allows you to attach a rubric to the document that can be used for grading with rubric-based feedback provided to the students.

Getting Started:
Getting up and running with Doctopus and Goobric is quite easy.  Here is all you need to do.
  1. Watch These Tutorials - Doctopus and Goobric by @jayatwood
    • Or come to Tech PD next Tuesday (10/29) if you are a PFAA/Leading Edge teacher.  If other academies are interested we can set up a Doctopus/Goobric workshop up at your site in the next few weeks.
  2. Student Information Spreadsheet - Create an assignment spreadsheet that contains the following information for your students - First Name, Last Name, Email Address, Period. 
    • While you could hand type this, the quicker method is to set up a Google Form and have your students complete it.  Then you will have all of the data for any future projects. Joshua Senge in Leading Edge did this and then shared it with his grade level colleagues for them to use too.
  3. Document Template - Create a Docs/Sheets/Slides template for your assignment.
    • It doesn't have to ahve anything on it, but you will need a document the Doctopus script can clone for each student.
  4. Run the Script - Find Doctopus in the Script Gallery, run it and wait for the magic to happen.
Spend some time and give these two tools a whirl.  You will be happy that you did.  If you need any additional support feel free to join us at the next PFAA/Leading Edge Tuesday workshop on October 29th or let me know and I would be happy to set up a 1:1 appointment.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Simplifying the Hunt with Common Sense Media

Many teachers have described how challenging it can be to find great curriculum resources when developing new units or just giving a unit from last year a digital make over.  I know many of you are starting to plan out or revise units for later this winter and spring.  One resource you should definitely check out is Common Sense Media.  I know you're thinking, "Wait? Isn't that just the digital citizenship curriculum?" It is that and so much more.   Here are three reasons why you should check out Common Sense Media.

1. Media Reviews
Are you looking for a great book, website, movie, or even video game to recommend to a student? Have parents expressed concern regarding the types of media their children are accessing at home? Common Sense Media began as a group of parents wanting to find objective information about books, television shows, and movies and now has more than 18,000 reviews that are great for parents or teachers. I find these handy when I am looking for a book to read to students or for a particular app for the iPad cart. The reviews provide clear, concise information about the age-appropriateness of the media and even summaries in the case of books, TV shows, and movies so that you know exactly what you are recommending.  It is so much better than reading the back of a book or video and trying to make an educated guess.

2. Graphite - Curriculum Resources
This past summer Common Sense Media launched Graphite, a new service for teachers focused on rating games, apps, website, and digital curricula for its use as a learning tool.  Along with reviews by the Common Sense Media editors, the site also contains insight from classroom teachers on the best ways for using these tools with your students. The video below provides a nice overview of Graphite.

3. Digital Literacy & Citizenship Curriculum
Yes, Common Sense Media is the digital citizenship curriculum we have selected as a school and one of the key pieces the Student Technology Skills Committee of the Tech Task Force is using to develop grade level technology standards and lessons for all of our students.  However, it is a great resource you can and should use right now.  If you have not checked out the Scope and Sequence take a look.  You will find quite a few useful lessons that tie nicely into your grade level, especially when you are introducing new digital tools (Schoology, Edmodo, YouTube, Google Apps, etc.) to your students.  All of the lessons are fully customizable and can be easily integrated into your current units.

So whether you are looking for a book, website, or digital citizenship lesson spend a few minutes checking out Common Sense Media.  It is a free resource full of great information to make finding high-quality resources much easier.


Friday, October 11, 2013

CapCUE at Natomas Charter

Two weeks ago Natomas Charter hosted over 200 educators from all over Northern California for the first annual CapCUE Tech Fest.  With sessions ranging from Digital Literacy with Blogging to Using High Tech Tools to Minecraft in the Classroom the conference consisted of more than 45 diverse workshops.  You can find a listing of all of the workshops often with links to session materials by clicking on this page.

Since the event occurred at Natomas Charter School, it was also a great opportunity to showcase the hard work, vision, and innovative teaching you and your students have pioneered. Eleven of our colleagues presented at the conference including Josh Landry, Elise Wallace, Cary Ziereberg, Jeanne Feeney, Jennifer Music, Karisa Bibayoff, Jennifer Kloczko, Kirsten Spall, Joshua Senge, and Juile Torres. By the end of the day attendees were so impressed with our campus and staff that many of them asked if we had any openings.

If you missed the CapCUE Tech Fest have no fear, the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium recorded all of the sessions that occurred in the Library Media Center and the opening keynote.  The videos are posted below in chronological order from when they occurred during the conference and will also be airing on channels 15 and 16 in Sacramento county.

The CapCUE Tech Fest will be returning to Natomas Charter next year, so make sure to keep the final Saturday in September open.


Opening Keynote - Creating the Schools Our Students Need
Joe Wood

Start Up to Advanced - Google Apps for Education
Tyler Johnstone
Teacher, Folsom Middle School

Elementary Flipped Teaching - Using the Cycle of Learning to Innovate CCSS Instruction
Lisa Highfill
Instructional Technology Coach, Pleasanton Unified School District

Students Craft their Own Learning with Minecraft EDU
Diane Main
Assistant Director of Instructional Technology 9-12, The Harker School

Google Forms: May the Forms Be with You
Will Kimbley
Instructional Technology Consultant, Tulare County Office of Education

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Middle School Multigenre Autobiographies

Oh my goodness!  How can it already be the second week of October and yet I haven't posted any EdTech News since the end of July?  It must be the busiest time of the year - Back to School season. Now that we all have a chance to collectively take a deep breath it is time to share all of the exciting instructional technology stories occurring on campus.  To kick us off I thought I share a beginning-of-the-year project that had its genesis during this year's NCS Summer Tech Camp - middle school multigenre autobiographies.

After reading the William Kist article, New Literacies and the Common Core, Cary Zierenberg and Elise Wallace were inspired by Kist's Mulitgenre Autobiography project for preservice teachers and decided to develop their own version for middle school students in Leading Edge and PFAA.  Using questions, such as "What was your favorite movie as child?", "What was your first favorite song?", and "What was the first book you read cover-to-cover?" they took students on a journey cataloging the various types of text that had shaped their literate lives.  The project had three main goals -
  • Have students read and analyze text in its many forms (print, multimedia, audio, graphics);
  • Lay the groundwork for a future conversations about the essential features of genre (audience, purpose, form, content);
  • Build classroom community.
Students could choose the digital medium in which they wanted to publish and many chose videos posted to YouTube or Prezis, but some chose more unique tools such as Padlet.  Below are links to few of the student and even teacher projects where the teachers "wrote along side" their students.
While this project occurred a few weeks ago, Elise and Cary have already noticed differences in the way this year's students are starting to analyze text.  For example, Elise has moved into her next unit on Progress and while in the past her students often treated the video clips as entertaining bits of multimedia, this year she is finding that the class discussions (face-to-face and online) are much richer with students naturally engaging in close reading and deeper analysis.

When you have a moment take a look at the student and teacher examples.  This project is a great example of how we meet the demands of Common Core by creating a culture of literacy that gets students to value, deeply analyze, and create all forms of text.  Or as Rick Gott said during the Summer Tech Camp, "All of us teach reading and writing, including me in my film class."