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Google Apps Store and the Classroom

9 Dec

Always the innovator, Google is working to change how we interact with the internet. Earlier this week, Google unveiled their Chrome Web Apps Store. Like what iPhone and iPad apps have done for mobile devices, Google is hoping to do for the internet. If you aren’t already running Google’s browser, Chrome, you’re missing out on what 120 million other people have fallen in love¬†with, myself included. Chrome is, in a word, fast. Combine that with the instant search capabilities that Google recently unveiled and we’re off to the races. One convenient feature is that the address bar duals as Google search, yet again saving you precious milliseconds of browsing time. Pair these tools with Gmail’s new priority inbox and, voila! you’ve freed up approximately 3.6 minutes of your day!

Chrome is King!

But back to the Apps Store…Apps run in Chrome browser and in the future will function as applications on Google’s Chrome OS, which they also previewed recently and have a handful of netbooks from Samsung and Acer slated for debut in early 2011.

While Google is certainly changing the face of the internet, with so many schools going 1-to-1 (mine included), the face of education is changing too. (See here and here for previous posts on how Google Docs can be used in the classroom)

The Apps store is just getting started, so it only has a few hundred apps, but I wanted to preview a few of the early winners for classroom use. [update: in the day or so since I started writing this post, the education apps has gone from around 60 to 111!]

Google Books: Create your own library of ebooks that resides in the cloud. Synchs with all of your web-enabled devices. See a short video touting its benefits here. Google’s new ebookstore just might give internet giant Amazon a run for its money

Aviary: Web-based image editing tool. Feature-rich and easy to use, this is a powerful image editing tool that is impressive for the cost – free!

Wikihood: Calling itself a “world browser” it is basically what you would get if you genetically engineered Google Maps by inserting the gene for Wikipedia. An interactive world map allows you to click anywhere in the world and bring up relevant cultural, historical, and other kinds of info. It goes right down to street level, and would make a killer app for traveling to a new city.

Sliderocket: This is like Google Presentation, on steroids! Too bad you have to pay for an account over 15MB and for synching with Google Apps. Boo!

Planetarium: Another google maps like experience but for the night sky. Tell it your location and you can look up at a virtual sky. This could be great if you teach in a city with lots of pollution like I do, and want your students to see what the sky could look like if only they’d quit turning on so many lights! A free graphing utility that looks pretty cool on the surface. Didn’t dive much into it but I’ll leave that up to the math and physics crowd. Seems like it could be pretty student friendly way to quickly visualize graphs though…

Evernote: This is basically just a link to the online Evernote at this point, but maybe in the future it will be a more feature-rich application. Not so much for your classroom instruction, but will help keep you sane. Love Evernote for just keeping track of odds and ends, and in fact just recently bought the full version and dig it.

Get your news fix with apps from NYTimes, NPR, or if you’re feeling less serious, the Onion

Not exactly school, but…

Tweetdeck: The ever popular program for keeping track of facebook, twitter, and everything else social, is now available in your browser as a Google App. Haven’t noticed much difference in the functionality yet…

Others I didn’t get around to trying but look like they could be cool:

Creately: The popular mind-mapping tools comes to Google Apps. Downside: not free ūüė¶
Aerotimer: Basically an egg timer for you browser. I typically use in the classroom and project it up on the overhead, but maybe I can use this to set time limits on the amount of time I spend in Google Reader….
Quicknote: An extension from Diigo, for taking quick notes. I’m pretty fond of Stickies in OS X but maybe worth a shot

The exciting part is that the store is just getting started, and for the moment a lot of the apps are glorified bookmarks. But it’s definitely a start, and the possibilities are exciting…


Differentiation 2.0

30 Nov

[here’s one that’s been on the back burner for a few weeks…]

Recently, coworker Cory Willey and I presented a workshop at Seoul International School on using technology and differentiation titled “Differentiation 2.0” Our goal was to highlight some current web 2.0 tools that work well with various strategies for differentiation. We organized the session around some of Carolyn Coil’s ideas on differentiation. Carolyn Coil recently came to our school for a weekend workshop and shared some great ideas and strategies (See here for a previous post live from the workshop…).

(You can check out the website here)

We organized it around the four areas of differentiation and featured a tool well suited for each area:

  • Content – Delicious and Social Bookmarking in the classroom
  • Process – Webspiration
  • Product – Prezi
  • Environment – Google Apps

Some reflection on the session:

  • 50 minutes was too short! We just scratched the surface and it would have been great to have more work time and more discussion
  • The website was great. Weebly once again has demonstrated its ease as a web design tool.
  • The MS/HS combo of presenters seemed to work well, being able to offer something different for different teachers (yay differentiation!)
  • Prezi and webspiration were enthusiastically received and teachers seemed to pick them both up quickly
  • Differentiating for teachers may be even harder than with students…Admin, librarians, ES, MS, HS, tech staff, what a diverse group!
  • No one seems to have utilized our idea for the sharing space on the website. Wonder how many times the site has been visited after the session? Wonder how to bring people back…

Back on the horse

20 Oct

Get back on me!

After a brief hiatus filled with masters coursework, a trip to China, umpteen college recommendation letters, lots of grading and of course teaching, it’s time to get back to the blog. I’m looking forward to this weekend and a workshop on differentiation with Carolyn Coil. I’ll post some updates from the workshop this weekend.

Looking ahead, I’m presenting a series of PD sessions in early November and wanted to hash out some ideas here.

  1. Google Apps part 2, which is a follow up to last month’s “Get a Grip on Google” presentation
  2. Differentiation 2.0, which will highlight some ways to use the technology and web 2.0 tools to differentiate.

The Un-Conference Learning 2.010 in Shanghai gave me lots of great ideas which hopefully I can work into the above sessions after laying them out here. Now that all my leisure writing time isn’t devoted to college recs maybe I’ll be able to blog more than once a month!

In the mean time, here are some collaborative web 2.0 tools I’ve been experimenting with.

  • Google Apps – its hard to even call this an experiment, at this point Google Apps is my tried and true medium for lab data and report collaboration
  • Webspiration – the popular concept mapping tool Inspiration has gone cloud-based with a free, public beta release Webspiration. I haven’t had the chance to try it out with my students yet, but the possibilities here are exciting. Concept mapping seems so much more powerful to me when you have more than one mind to map.
  • Prezi – The hip presentation tool has also gone cloud-based and now multiple collaborators can work on single Prezi file ala Google Presentation. My students have enthusiastically taken to using Google Presentation to create quick group projects, but Prezi adds another great option for presentations
  • Dabbleboard – Turn the students laptops into whiteboards that they can write on collaboratively. Could be cool for project planning or group process modeling

More coming! Hopefully soon I’ll get some student samples up on here with these tools…

Get a grip on Google

5 Sep

Last week I led a series of PD sessions on ways to use Google Education Apps to make life easier in the classroom. Jumping on the Google Apps bandwagon can feel chaotic at first. Last month I posted a few Google Apps tips on this blog, but I wanted to play around with Google sites so I went ahead and created a site. It features some suggestions and walk throughs on some basic strategies for managing 100+ students, and hopefully minimizing the somewhat inevitable chaos that will ensue when they first start creating and sharing assignments with you.

Check out the site here.

drinking from the fire hose…safely

24 Jul

The other day I was lamenting the challenges of dealing with the overwhelming amount of information at a mouse click’s distance. Last year our school made the move to Google Apps for Education, which I was genuinely excited (some might say¬†stoked) for. I’d already been using Google Docs a lot by requiring my students to create a gmail account and register their info on a Google Doc. Loving the collaborative benefits of Gdocs, I figured I’d have my students put lab data into a class spreadsheet and then create lab reports in small groups. 36+ emails later with (or w/out) various subject headings, email names (e.g. cutiepie70356) that are unidentifiable, and entirely informal content.

A year later, and slightly wiser, I’ve learned a few things. A few basic steps ahead of time can make life a lot simpler. Here’s a screenshot I marked up to show a couple of these tips described below:

  1. Labels – these are great for organizing the daily glut of emails. Labels are superior to folders (sorry Outlook) because you can have multiple labels on the same email, whereas an email can’t be in multiple folders at once. Labels can also be nested so that they are organized under other labels (e.g. classes>apbio). This is easy to do, just add a a new label that is preceded by the desired parent label followed by a backslash (classes/apbio) See (a) & (b)
  2. Standardized titles – When kids first started sharing boatloads of Gdocs with me, they were coming in a totally uncontrolled fashion. Now I require that any doc they share with me is titled in the following way: FirstLastName_Period_Assignment….This makes it easy to sort them out into folders. I create folders for each class in my Google Docs page and then subfolders for each assignment. See (c)
  3. Filters – I require each student to include in their signature (call me old fashioned but I require that they actually address me with Mr. Paulson and conclude their message with their name) a label that identifies their class. For example, “apbioC10” corresponds to my (surprise) AP Bio class, in period C, 2010. I’ve created filters (see (a) in the pic) that automatically direct messages containing the content “apbioc10” to be labeled “classes/apbio/c” This is a tiny thing initially but saves me the hassle of manually labeling each message day to day. (UPDATE: forgot to mention that filters could also be designed to sort out shared documents based on their titles, provided they follow a standardized format like described above. For example, I could create a label for the assignment “photo vocab” that was nested – classes/apbio/photo – and use the “Has the words” criteria to select for emails that were sharing their presentations with me automatically.)

That’s the tip of the iceberg anyways. I’ll revisit Google Apps again soon…a Wave post is in the future blog pile….

a drink from the fire hose

23 Jul

Lately I’ve been feeling a lot like a character from a favorite movie of mine, UHF

No, not Weird Al.

I’m feeling more like little Joe Miller after finding the marble in the oatmeal…

thanks Stanley Spadowski.

I jumped on the Google Reader bandwagon last fall when I started feeling like I was killing too much time surfing the web (I blame you StumbleUpon) thinking that it would streamline the assortment of internet gems that were consuming too much of my precious time. The end result was a huge organizational improvement. Thousands of articles on science, education, sports, trivial factoids, all a few clicks away!

An unintended side effect was that the ease of organizing and adding feeds led to extra feeds finding their way into my daily routine. I love the amount of personally selected, relevant info available in one central location but its hard not to feel like little Joey drinking from the not so proverbial fire hose.

My recent foray into Twitter has only compounded the flow of information. Just starting to get that dialed in but digging the possibilities, so long as I can convince a few folks to start following me who aren’t tweeting about #justinbieber or #freeipads…

PLN is a buzz word (acronym?) that teachers can’t seem to get enough of these days. While I’m the first to admit that I’m a huge slave to fan of connectivity, I’m also continually reminded how much I value interacting with human beings and how this is often lost in all the tweeting and blogging about PLNs. Maybe it’s the summer vacation away from my teaching buddies but I’m looking forward to getting the ole gang back together again.

The notion of information management is one that I’ll be revisiting again soon, right after I finish reading these 6,328 items in Reader…

fyi: if you haven’t seen UHF before, put it at the top of your Netflix queue – you’ll thank yourself, and then me.