MuseForJews

muse: n. a source of inspiration

3rd and 4th grade teachers love Handouts!

My colleagues have been playing with the Handouts app and they’re simply loving it. It isn’t exactly earth-shattering or paradigm-shifting, but it’s simple, to the point, and elegant. The process is easy: create a handout (either make a PDF or take a picture of something), import it into Handouts and send it to your students. Students use the now-familiar method of joining a class via code, receive the handout and fill it in and send it back. Students can “write” or type their response. Simple and elegant.

My teachers are most excited for this in terms of its potential for a digital portfolio. That and the whole paperless part. Very cool!

September 15, 2014 Posted by | Education, Technology | , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Email’s awesome, right? Well, not always. Check out CoolCatTeacher’s blog post with some great email etiquette tips.

Remind (which used to be Remind101) is the coolest thing ever! I’ve talked about this before: set up a class, ask parents and/or students to join online, and you can text (or email) everyone with one click of a mouse! It’s also the coolest because it was developed by my former student Brett Kopf. Remind has instituted some big changes this year – learn more here.

Newsela is a news site that’s designed to help build reading comprehension. Like so many sites, there is a free and not-so-free version. The free version, though, does provide multiple news articles every day at various reading levels.

If you’re planning to create a class webpage, here’s a great article that talks about what you should and should not be putting out there.

This is a great idea – here’s a website where you can share photos without jumping through a lot of hoops. Create an event, invite friends, and everybody can upload. Genius!

Food for thought…here’s an interesting article about why flunking is good.

GAFE tip of the week: if you’re doing a research paper in Google docs and want to locate and cite scholarly sources, go to Tools > Research and search for the source. Want to cite it? Click either Cite as Footnote or Insert.

GAFE tip of the week: This is not for the faint-of-heart, but those who are bold enough to hop over here to learn about how to use canned responses in their Google mail. Very cool!

September 12, 2014 Posted by | Links | , , , | Leave a comment

Why go 1:1?

One of my professional goals is to determine our course of action regarding a 1:1 initiative. We began this year with 3rd and 4th grades after a pilot of sorts last year with increased accessibility in 3rd grade. Each of the students in those grades has access this year to an iPad all day, regardless of class. The iPads stay in school.

This year we’re piloting using iPads in language arts in 5th grade. Week one brought the question of “where’s spellcheck in the Docs app?”

We’re also dealing with the issue of sharing iPads in 5th grade, since there are two carts for four sections. Students have to remember (and their teachers have to remember to tell them) to log out of the Docs app at the end of each session and to make sure they’re the one logged in at the beginning. It no doubt is cumbersome for the teachers, and I’m sure chaos will ensue at some point when that procedure isn’t followed.

So I started thinking about my own digital life.

I am not 1:1. I’m more like 3:1, with laptop, iPad and iPhone as my 3. I instinctively move from device to device, choosing the device based on the task I need to perform. If I need to do heavy word processing I reach for my laptop. If the laptop isn’t available (or, more likely, in the dining room and I don’t want to get up off the couch to retrieve it), the iPad is a suitable stand in, but only as a second choice. On the other hand, there are definitely things for which the iPad is better suited, like quick movie making. Apps like Show Me or Explain Everything are much more useful for video tutorials and much faster to use.

Is 1:1, defined as one specific device per child, realistic? Or does it make more sense to define 1:1 as the ratio of total devices available to the total student body as a 1:1 ratio, without assigning specific device to specific children?

September 2, 2014 Posted by | Mobile devices and apps, Technology, Thinking | , , | Leave a comment

Week One: 5th and 6th graders word processing with iPads

We are piloting using shared iPads for word processing in two of our language arts classes this year, and my sincere hope is that it’s going to get better. Admittedly, one week is not exactly an indicator of anything (which is why pilot programs last more that, well, a week), but the rollout has already had its issues.

This rollout was done in conjunction with our adoption of Google Apps for Education. Part of the reason for instituting GAFE is that we had eight year old laptops that are coming close to well past their useful life, an I was hoping to avoid buying more laptops. We’re pretty much a Mac shop (for lots of reasons), and even the least expensive Mac Air is more money than I’d like to pop right now. And we’ve had tremendous success in many of our classes with iPads, so I was interested in seeing if iPads would meet the needs of our LA teachers.

If we were going 1:1 with take home in these classes, I wouldn’t have worried about what’s going to happen to the students’ documents, but we’re not (and I’m not sure I see that next year, either). So, in order for iPads to be used by multiple students, their documents have to have somewhere to go. Enter GAFE.

Well, that sounds fine, except that I had had little experience with relying on the Docs as a word processor. I’ve used Google Docs on a laptop, and wasn’t unhappy with it, but there’s quite a bit of difference between the Docs app and the web-based version. And I’m pretty sure Google doesn’t really care about making it more user-friendly, since they’re really interested in our purchasing Chromebooks…

Is there spell check for Google docs?But this is what I’ve got. I’ve got two LA classes with beautiful iPads (and standalone keyboards) and no spellcheck. That’s the text you want to get in the middle of a meeting… 

Well….um….no. Not exactly. There’s autocorrect, but that’s not the same thing. And if you’ve ever taught 5th and 6th grade, you know that “be sure to use spell check” comes out of your mouth a lot.

A lot.

Gulp. 

So for my play time today, I’ve been playing with Docs, Pages and Textilus on my iPad and Google docs on my laptop to come up with a suitable workaround that will be palatable to my LA colleagues and doable by my 5th and 6th graders.

Here are my findings:

The only place students should have to log into Google is in the Docs app…not Drive or Safari. This is important because these are shared devices, so where you log in you must log out.

Tip #1 – accessing a spellchecker while using Google Docs app:

If you do this, you get autocorrect, but you also get little red dots beneath words that don’t appear in the dictionary:

  1. Create a new document and tap on the three little dots on the right (under the battery indicator)
  2. Tap on Share and export, and select “Save as Word (.docx)
  3. Docs will save your document as a new Word document with the .docx file extension. The original one is still there (with no file extension), so your kids will have to know which one to open. 
  4. If you click on the little red dots now, you should see a checkmark next to Spellcheck.

Tip #2 — creating content using the Pages app and then saving to Google Docs

Pages on the iPad is lovely. The problem is that Pages documents are saved on the device itself, and aren’t available to the student outside of school. And, since multiple students could be using any one iPad at one time, the documents aren’t secure. A workaround is:

Make sure the student has logged into Docs

  1. Create a document in Pages, and then tap on the rectangle with the up arrow on it. This icon generally indicates a way to share or move an item.
  2. Choose “Open in Another App.” 
  3. Tap on Word, and then Pages will convert the document. 
  4. When the conversion completes, tap on “Choose App” at the bottom of the next box. 
  5. Choose “Open in Docs,” and you should get a box asking if it’s okay to Upload Item to My Drive?
  6. Tap on Upload. The document will be available in the student’s Google Drive

Google – please add a real spell check to the Docs app, or next year it’s Macbook Airs for us. 

August 30, 2014 Posted by | GAFE, iPads | , , | 1 Comment

Links You’ll Love – 8-29-14

Need to record a brief audio clip? Want your students to? Visit ClypIt, record your clip and get a link to share.

If you need some GIFs to explain mathematical concepts (and WHO doesn’t need those?) check out this website.

http://www.wordle.net is one of our favorite word cloud generators, but sometimes it gets cranky and stops working. This article has 9 more word cloud websites.

“Make it big, do it right, give it class…” Science teacher Steve Spangler’s science videos aim to do just that. Watch his videos here.

GAFE tip of the week: searching for a particular email message has gotten easier now that we’re using GAFE! Check out this article for tips on using Google search terms in Google Mail.

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Links You'll Love | | Leave a comment

Digital device reading…the need to teach differently

In a fascinating New Yorker article, Maria Konnikova discusses the differences in reading comprehension across different media. Konnikova cites research into various issues such as Internet-enabled devices, scrolling, layout and hyperlinks. Researchers hypothesize that deep reading – the thoughtful, reflective process of really synthesizing what you’re reading – is taking a hit when readers are using a Kindle or iPad.

So, the first response might be to say that, well we’re not going to use eDevices then…we’ll still teach using books, newspapers and magazines. That might work for a while, but we’re obviously doing our students a tremendous disservice if we make that call.

I think this is just fascinating. Of course we need way more research into this, but it’s one more task that faces those of us in ed tech…how to teach our kids to adapt to the changes technology brings.

What do you think?

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Education, Thinking | Leave a comment

When sharing isn’t caring

I’m as guilty as many at getting much of my news from Facebook. I suspect that my students will have a future where social news is far more prevalent than, well, reading a newspaper.

A recent share from a friend on Facebook got me to thinking about this phenomenon.

First, the photo and caption:

20140727-092605-33965541.jpg

Sometimes I read the comments before actually reading the article. I’m interested in what people have to say. I was shocked by the venomous comments about Islam and Muslims. And I’m sure my friend shared it with that same response of outrage about the mistreatment of women.

Then I read the article.

Well, it started with a big, bold paragraph about an alleged edict that probably was a hoax. A horrible hoax designed to discredit Isis.

A different story than the one implied by the click bait caption.

A powerful message to read before you like, share or comment.

How do we teach this?

July 27, 2014 Posted by | Digital literacy | , | Leave a comment

The Programming Dilemma

Like everyone else, I’ve been reading all the back-and-forth about the need to teach programming. Like everyone else, I’m wondering when we’re supposed to find the time to do it. “How many languages can we teach in one day?” I ask…

An article in Mother Jones addresses this issue, stating that “computer literacy is the key to winning the 21st century.” I’m not exactly sure what winning the century means, but I found the article a fascinating read.

During this past school year, I had the opportunity to run two specials for 6th graders who were interested in coding. As it happened, one was a small group of boys, and the second a small group of girls. The differences were interesting. For example, the boys were mostly interested  in designing games via Gamestar Mechanic, and the girls were more interested in a methodical class in an actual programming language; working through Khan Academy’s JavaScript course. Differences aside, one thing that I did observe across the board, though, was that we needed a lot of time to go through the lessons.

Time? We just don’t have so much of it.

One way our school addressed this was to start an extra-curricular Code Club run by parents. Students sign up (and pay separately) and come to school on a Sunday evening to learn how to code. It was immensely popular…with the kids who were interested in coding. Obviously, since this was a self-selected group, it was, well, great for the kids who identified an interest.

But it occurs to me that “winning the 21st Century” needs to be about getting everybody on board, or at least more students than the ones who self-identify as wannabe programmers.

The article at Mother Jones brings up a different tactic, one that I’m interested in exploring; the principle of computational thinking. This intrigues me. It’s about teaching kids how to approach solving problems in a systematic, logical manner.

I recently worked with our 7th graders to design digital scavenger hunts using ARISgames. It’s a terrific platform, and requires no programming skills. But it does require some careful thinking about what needs to be in place in order to make things happen. It also requires careful attention to syntax (and what 7th grader cares about syntax? Slashes…we don’t need no stinkin’ slashes…).

Most of the kids loved it.

Maybe that’s the way to go…computational thinking, not programming. If they want to learn to code later, so be it. But maybe, for now, we’ll teach them how to create, how to use systematic thinking to solve their problems and get from here to there.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Programming | , , , | Leave a comment

Links You’ll Love

Planning to organize your smart phone or iPad apps this summer? Check out Mashable’s guide to creative organization strategies.

We’re so excited that we’re “going Google” next year! If you’d like to learn a little more about Google Apps for Education, visit Google’s overview.  There are some great tutorials here.

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Links | | Leave a comment

The little things matter

Last week, during the confirmation service, one of the kids spoke about something that happened in Israel during a synagogue trip. She used the story to illustrate, to her, that Judaism is capable of evolving.

During a b’nai mitzvah service in Israel, it was discovered that no one had brought a yad (the pointer which helps you keep your place while reading the sacred scroll without touching it) for the Torah reading. Our quick-thinking rabbi pulled a pen out of his pocket as a substitute and proceeded with the service. (I’m sure it was held in such a way that there was no potential damage to the Torah.)

Clearly this had an impact on our young student, who thought enough of the incident to relate it last night.

I’m sure that the event was quickly forgotten by many of the people in attendance. But not everyone. As educators, we need to remember that you never know what small gesture will have the greatest impact on our students. I know I can use this reminder. Small things (or words) matter.

June 11, 2014 Posted by | Education, Jewish | , | Leave a comment

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