Thursday, May 15, 2014

Google Week

I like to spend a week of school teaching kids how to use Google. Every year it changes so much. For example, this year I had to explain how Google uses Apps instead of websites for its services.

I start off by showing a video about the history of Google.  This gives a perspective of the company that gives them a context as to why Google is so important to learn. Each year, it changes. Here is the one I used this year.

Next, I make sure they all have Google accounts. You can set them up for kids, but mostly, they will already have one. The account lets students access all parts of Google. Eventually, Google Classroom will help with this step, but it's not ready yet.

Then, depending on your class, walk though each of the different apps of Google. Change the apps you cover based off of your audience and course content. Just casually introduce each app and have them try it out. In my IT class, I like to cover them in this order:
1.) Search
2.) Gmail
3.) Calendar
4.) Maps
5.) Blogger
6.) Translate
7.) Voice

I hate advertising for a company in my classroom, but I feel that the academic value of these apps outweigh my concerns. Make sure you talk about privacy online and how that when you use Google products, you need to protect your identity.

In the end, you'll have students who are comfortable using these apps, and you'll be able to use them to better manage your classroom.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Tech Trends of 2012 lesson

I like to have students talk about the technology trends from 2012 in my classes, so here are some resourses that I shared with them.

As a lesson, I share the videos, and then have them read the articles on their own. Then I have them select 3 items that they think are the most significant from the year. They then blog about why those 3 items are the most important.

This lesson starts the new year off well and prepares us to talk about the trends we will expect to see in 2013. We'll watch videos from CES and talk about future trends later in the week.

News summaries
Gizmag's top tech of 2012
Telegraph's top tech of 2012
Engadget's top tech of 2012

Youtube searches
Engineering achievements
Worst tech in 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Using Interactive Whiteboards With Windows 8

So I installed Windows 8 on my laptop a few weeks ago and have had time to explore several of the new tools that it provides. Why is Windows 8 beneficial to educators using interactive whiteboards?

1.) The touch based properties of an IWB work well with the new Windows 8 interface. The interface was designed with touchscreens in mind and it really shows. You can easily shift from application to application with a gesture based interface. No more clicking through menus- you just tap to run applications. The charms bar has replaced the start button, so searching is just a left-swipe away.

2.)  Instead of depending on web browsers for web-based content, the new live tiles are easier to click on during class instruction. I hate having to use the on-screen keyboard or even the tablet input panel to "type" in a web address in web browsers. You can just use live tiles to start webpages for weather, maps, and other tools. If you spend some time setting up the live tiles to match what you are going to use in class, you will save a ton of awkward time in front of students.

3.) As much as I hate to say it, Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 8 is pretty useful. It lets you browse the web via touch in a very efficient manner. Despite a bit of a learning curve, you will find it easy to use in front of a classroom.

As for the fight between eInstruction and SMARTed, SMARTboards work without any drivers or software natively. I plugged a SMARTboard in and it worked, multitouch and all, with no installation of any kind. However, my eInstruction board doesn't work at all. The engineers are working on it, I hear, but it's been 3 weeks and my board is gathering dust right now. Right now, if I had to choose, I would pick SMARTed without any reservations.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Keep iPads Out of Elementary Schools

I just found out that my 6 year old's school is going to purchase a cart of 30 iPads for the entire school to use. This makes me incredibly angry, even as a technology teacher, and it's not just because the PTA is using the money that my wife and I have contributed to the PTA over the last several years. (That was a lot of box tops.) I was having trouble verbalizing why I feel that this is a mistake, so I've come up with the top 3 reasons as to why this is a bad idea.

1.) Screen time
Students are exposed to computer, television, and projector screens enough already. Putting the screen in my child's hands is going to further distract them from the learning that they should be doing. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children get no more than two hours of screen time a day, and the iPad screen time will contribute to that amount. There is a link between screen time and impaired academic performance. I send my kids to school thinking that they will not be watching yet again another version of TV, but now I see that we won't have a choice.

2.) Advertising
The iPad is a huge fat advertisement for Apple. Put a giant Apple logo, and several smaller logos in front of my kids every day and there will definitely be an effect on their opinion of Apple. We already sell tons of ads to our kids and subject them to drivel from sources such as Channel One, I don't want another corporation's advertisements literally in their hands, influencing their young minds.

3.) Age appropriateness
In elementary school, students' brains are wired to learn more than at any time in their lives. They need to learn about the world around them through play and through interacting with others. If we stick them in front of iPads, we teach them how to look at a screen. Is that what we want our young people to be doing- looking at screens all day? Is that learning, is that what people are thinking that we should be doing with these precious years of their lives?

I don't think that iPads are going to be anything that our children need in their classrooms. It's not like they aren't going to see them at home. However, schools are supposed to be responsible with the time that we entrust to them with our children. Sticking them in front of yet another screen, covered in ads, wasting their precious young-brain time, is not a good use of the most important years of our kids lives.

Monday, February 13, 2012

eTech Ohio 2012 Presentation

The session went very well! Thanks to all of those who participated.

Update: names to follow from presentation
Twitter: @megbrarian @amriede
Facebook: Mallory Nelson, Di Marie, Megan Fallon Meyer
Link to mindmeister:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Using Tech to Prepare for ACT/SAT

I've spent a lot of time over the last few years finding tech tools for students who are preparing to study for the ACT/SAT. Tools like Free Rice for English vocabulary and Khan Academy for math problems provide different takes on what it means to study for these high-stakes tests. Every paper-based study guide will also come with test prep software, and students, who often hate to read, are becoming more and more dependent on these software solutions.

Today I had my students take a practice ACT test in class. While they were working, I sat down with a few of them and actually went over some of the problems. Most of the time, I just throw tech tools at students and expect them to learn while using them. I really think that the impact that my 1-on-1 teaching had was way greater than the impact of the tech tools that I usually prescribe.

I think that there is a disconnect between students and test prep software and tech tools. The tools that just drill students over and over again might have their uses, but for many students, they are going to need intervention from humans when starting to study. I think that this is a situation where educators, like myself, need to stop preaching about tools, and instead, involve ourselves more directly with preparing our students for standardized tests.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ohio ACTE presentation

Here are my slides! Follow along to collaborate with the presentation.