Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Retro Charger

This weekend I was tinkering around with an old Apple 2E computer which, by the way, was released when I was two years old (1982/83). I attended the ASTE Conference this passed February and the Bering Straights team did something like this at their booth. I loved it and wanted to try it out, too! 

Basically a 64gb iPad 2 was mounted in the shell of a 2e.

 I ran the cord through the back of the box and cut out for the sync/charge cord.

With all the extra room, I could also mount small speakers inside the casing. 

The result is "The Retro Charger" iPad charging/docking station... 

What else was I going to do on a Saturday afternoon, watch TV?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Google Apps in Education

What is all this talk about "the cloud?"

Why do I need to set up "Home Sharing" for my iTunes?

How can I keep up with files over the course of jobs, years, and computers in the coming years?

There has been a recent revolution to share files to the web over the last 10 years or so... These questions and many others are answered by a simple fact: the way we communicate has changed. Just like the telephone changed the way we share information across the country and globe, the internet has changed the way we share electronic files. It is no longer a necessity to possess a piece of information, only to have reliable, efficient access to it.

The days of a computer or smartphone crashing and loosing data are over. With the ability to access information from a single repository through multiple devices we are free to become truly mobile. Okay, okay, let's slow down a bit... Let's begin with Google.

Google has a long history as a giant among the titans of the internet. It is third in terms of web mail (though it hosts many domains outside of the "@gmail.com" domain that may not be counted), supports all platforms as the Chrome browser, and is synonymous with the words "internet search" (Google-it!). But what you may not know is that Google also links you to Blogspot, YouTube, and Picassa just to name a few. Google hosts everything from source code editors to websites, word processors to presentation tools, and computer aided design programs to free books online!

Lets get started with few basic Google features. All require a GMail account to interact, so why don't you go ahead and make one: CLICK

If you already have one, watch the videos on the following:

Defining "Educational Technology"

I was thinking about the following questions recently and I thought it would be nice to share my thoughts and ask for feedback from any readers... 

What is your working definition of technology? 
What is your working definition of assessment? 
How are you currently facilitating the use of technology in the classroom?

My definition of technology is fairly loose. I would say it is the application of new science or concepts for the purpose of making a task more efficient or effective. In this discussion I often share a funny story from my experience consulting. While visiting a school to offer professional development I was told by a veteran teacher that she couldn’t do “the SMART Board thing” because it was “too high tech.” I told her it was basically just a really fancy mouse pad. That night I looked up some interesting quotes and found one from Horace Mann himself (which I could not find to share here). He said something like ‘this board will revolutionize education and change every classroom…’ He was talking about the chalkboard, of course, around the turn of the century. I put the quote on the title page of the second day’s workshop and asked everyone what the thought. They all said “Yes, SMART Boards will change everything, but it’s tough to figure out how to integrate it into lesson we already teach and strategies we already use.” I let them talk about and get a little fired up, then I clicked to reveal the author, date, and subject.

It seems to me that teachers (and businesses) feel the same way I described in a great many circumstances. Just like hand held slate boards were once revolutionary teaching and assessment tools, dare I say “high tech,” so now are web 2.0 and other resources. It is all relative. To facilitate eh use of technology in the classrooms within my district I prefer slow and methodical implementation. I try to give teachers a dozen reasons to use a particular tool and let them want to learn and use it. If you get stakeholder buy in anything is possible. Once interest builds I develop user specific training to teach basic features and functions to enable exploration. The next phase is professional development. This PD should be hands-on, relevant to the content areas of those involved, and ongoing. I do my best to reproduce everything produced in presentation format and post it online. This way it can be revisited when needed.  

One of my favorite ideas sweeping the education community right now is the move toward mobility. I am doing my best to win grants for my teachers to use iPads, iPods, and other tablets in the classrooms. By enabling the learners to succeed in so many facets, I open up numerous opportunities to tap into web response systems.
Some of my favorite online tools at the moment are www.questionpress.com and www.polleverywhere.com . These tools allow teachers to use a browser and any texting cell phone as a student responder. With the first item, I suggest to teachers that they import standards based assessments required by the state into the online database. Then they can align standards to questions and deliver the practice test numerous times a year to gauge student retention and progress. In short it is a brilliant tool to find where on the learning continuum a student lies through this summative assessment. In the context of the second tool, I suggest teachers use instant polling features to create dynamic formative assessments. Instant polls are wonderful for anticipatory sets, anonymous polling, and simple understanding checks.