Tuesday, September 16, 2014

3 Things You Might Not Know about Google for Education

This was taken from eSchool News --

3 things you might not know about Google for Education
From staff reports

June 9th, 2014
Joining other tools such as Docs, Spreadsheets, Gmail, Drive, Groups, and Sites will be a new service called Classroom, which will “make it very easy for students and teachers to streamline workflow, share assignments, and post questions to an activity stream,” Leonard said.

Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive, and Gmail to help teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease, according to a description on Google’s website. It will enable students to organize their work, complete and turn it in, and communicate directly with their teachers and peers.

“Classroom was designed hand-in-hand with teachers to help them save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students,” Google says.

2. Google Play for Education makes it incredibly easy to deploy, discover, and deliver content.

Launched last November, Tablets for Google Play for Education—a special service within the Google Play app store for Android tablets—makes it easy to find and share classroom-appropriate apps, Leonard said.

With traditional tablet deployments, it can be tough to set up the devices and find good content amid a “sea of apps,” he said. But with Google Play for Education, “you can actually set up a full classroom [of Android-based tablets] in minutes.” He said there is a YouTube video showing how three second-graders near Chicago set up an entire class of Nexis tablets in just 210 seconds.

Through a partnership with the nonprofit organization CUE (formerly the Computer-Using Educators), CUE has correlated thousands of educational apps in Google Play with the Common Core standards. Educators can search for apps by subject, grade level, and Common Core standard.

What’s more, you can buy apps using a school or district purchase order—and you can share apps with students or groups of students, just like you’d share a document. That makes it easy for teachers to differentiate instruction, Leonard said, by pushing out certain apps to students based on their interests, abilities, or needs.

You can also reassign apps when students no longer need them, or share licenses with other teachers in your school or district. You can push out or assign videos from YouTube EDU as well, and you can rent K-12 books and push them out to students thanks to deals that Google has signed with leading publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, and Lerner.

3. Google is constantly adding valuable new content to extend learning beyond the classroom walls.

You might already be familiar with the Google Art Project, which brings close-up views of great works of art to user’s devices—but do you know about the Street View Treks in Google Maps, which take users on a tour of the Colorado River, the canals of Venice, the Eiffel Tower, or the Galapagos Islands?

And did you know that Google has created Chrome App Packs for schools, which Leonard called a “really great way to get started” in teaching with mobile apps? These are custom curated app packs for elementary, middle, and high school, he said. Many of them are free, and they contain resources to complement the Google Apps for Education.

The Best Designed Apps in the World, According to Apple

1 - Storehouse – Visual Storytelling: Storehouse is a beautiful iPad app that lets users create highly visual and customized stories to share with people through Dropbox or Instagram.

2 - Threes: It's all about finding combinations and factors of three in this addictive app. Its tagline is "A tiny puzzle that grows on you."
3 - Leo's Fortune: In this platform adventure game, you are responsible for Leo as he bounces, slides and floats his way in search of his stolen hoard of gold.
4 - Monument Valley: This picturesque adventure game thrusts you into a world of impossible architecture that feels like a living M.C. Escher painting.
5 - Cinemagraph Pro: Want to create images that seem to breathe with motion? Cinemagraph Pro is an editing suite that lets you construct living pictures called "flixels."
6 - PanoPerfect: One of the two student winners of the Apple Design Award, PanoPerfect gives users a place to easily share their iPhone panoramas.
7 -Device 6: This narrative experience combines puzzles, thrillers and literature to create one of the most experimental apps we've ever seen.
8-Yahoo News Digest: Last year, Yahoo won an Apple Design Award for its beautiful Yahoo Weather app, and the company did it again this year with a polished news reader.
9 - Day One: This journal app encourages you to treat it like a diary, making it easy to chronicle everything from major life events to the briefest encounters.
10 -Blek: In this mesmerizing game, you gesture to create a line that worms its way along, repeating its motion gracefully. Aim for colored dots, avoid the black ones.
11 - Teachley: Addimals Adventure: The second student winner is an educational app from Teachley that teaches fundamental strategies for addition in a colorful way.
12 - Sky Guide: View Stars Night or Day: Just point your iPhone and iPad to the sky at night, and Sky Guide does the rest, highlighting constellations for you to discover.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Great YouTube Channels For Teachers

Since we finally have adequate (for now) bandwidth, we can utilize all the great things on youtube.  Here are a few highly recommended channels:

In this channel, teachers John and Hank Green provide some excellent video explanations and tutorials on a variety of topics related to World History, Biology, Literature, Ecology, Chemistry, and US History.

2- TED Ed

You are probably already familiar with this channel. TED Ed features some of the best video lessons created by talented educators and in collaboration with professional animators.

3- Shots of Awe

With over 151 thousand subscribers, Shots of Awe is one of the most popular YouTube channels for academics, researchers, students and science lovers. Each week, Jason Silva uploads a video that takes viewers into the miraculous depths of human knowledge. He covers topics related to the evolution of human intelligence, complex systems of society, technology and human existence and discusses the truth and beauty of science in a form of existential Jazz.

4- Asap Science

Asap Science is a Youtube channel dedicated for everything related to science and scientific  concepts. It mixes fun and learning in such a way that the explanation of scientific phenomena becomes a pleasure to watch.

5- SciShow

SciShow is another awesome YouTube channel I repeatedly featured here in this blog. SciShow contains videos that discuss scientific and historical concepts.

6- Keith Hughes

Keith's videos are really fun to watch. His channel HipHughes History features a "a series of upbeat, personable and educational lectures designed for students and lifelong learners. Videos primarily focus on US History and Politics but span across World History and general interest. So sit back and enjoy the antics of HipHughes as he melds multimodality into a learning experience."

7-  Khan Academy

The popular Khan Academy channel provides video lessons on a variety of topics and across different disciplines namely science, math, physics, biology and many more


NASA's YouTube channel includes hundreds of videos on space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.

9- Smarter EveryDAY

Smarter EveryDAY is a wonderful channel where students get to learn about science through explanations of common sense phenomena.

10- Mental Floss

This is similar to Shots of Awe mentioned above. It is a weekly show where John provides  some excellent videos on challenging topics and big questions.

11- Veritasium 

 "Veritasium is a science video blog featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Getting Bandwidth To Our District

Last year I fought AT&T to get bandwidth to our district.  It was a long fight and not very pretty.  On September 8, 2014 I testified at the meeting of the Joint Education Committee of the Arkansas Legislature.  The following is what I said:

I am the technology coordinator for the Cave City School District.  We are a small rural school in northeast Arkansas.  Our current enrollment is 1275 and our free and reduced  rate is around 72%.  

We had been trying to get additional bandwidth since the state’s Bandwidth for Educational Enhancement  initiative was introduced in 2010.  At that time the Department of Information System was only able to increase our bandwidth from 2 T1 lines to 4. Which is less than most households.  That same year when I filed our Erate application, I requested bids for additional bandwidth.  That request was denied.  AT&T  is only one  provider of fiber in our area.   I contacted our local rep at least twice a year requesting more bandwidth, only to be told, “bandwidth is not available in your area.”   Also, every year I would contact DIS and request bandwidth from them, hoping they would fare better with AT&T than I, but they didn’t either.  

In 2012 we had reached the point where new devices would not connect to our network and teachers and students could not access the wealth of information on the Internet because of our limited bandwidth.  That summer AT&T laid fiber  through Cave City.  We thought this was our big chance.  I called our local rep.  Once again, the answer was no. Again, he said fiber was not available.  When I asked about the fiber that had been laid in Cave City, his response was “How do you know its ours?” When I explained that we had asked the crew laying the fiber, he said, “It’s not ours”  and ended the conversation.  

In January 2013 after attending a webinar for the new PARCC online testing, I realized that if we did not get bandwidth, there was no way we could participate in online testing or utilize other on line resources.  Once again, I contacted DIS and at that time they told me we were one of six schools in the state that could not get more bandwidth.  They couldn’t give me a reason, just we couldn’t get bandwidth.

In February of 2013 I was speaking with the technology coordinator at Greers Ferry Westside.  He said that they too were one of the six schools.  However, one of their school board members worked for the state highway department and knew that there was fiber running through town. They too had contacted AT&T  with the same results I had.  At that time they contacted state representative Missy Irwin.  In a few days the provider contacted them and they were able to get all the bandwidth they needed.  He recommended I do the same.   

I immediately called our state senator and left a message.  I also emailed him. After two weeks of not hearing back, I was at my wits end.  It was then that I remembered that one of our school board members, Kirk Ratliff, knew Congressman Rick Crawford.  I called Mr. Ratliff, told him my tale, and asked if he could call the Congressman.  In less than 24 hours, Andrea Allen with Mr. Crawford’s office called me and asked me how they could help.  The next day AT&T  reps were calling asking how much bandwidth we wanted.

In July 2013 we signed contracts for 100mg circuits at both our campuses and that’s when the real nightmare began.   My initial contact was with Stephanie Hundley in Kansas City.  She was very nice and  very helpful.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have anything to do with our account long.  Once the preliminary site visit was made to tell us what we had to do to ready our sites, our main contact  was a  woman in Atlanta named MJ Blackshear.  Apparently nothing can get done without her approval, and she really does not care about  little schools in Arkansas. There was very little communication from her.  I never knew when anyone was coming, what they were doing, what I needed to have ready, etc.    Every time a deadline would come and go, I would contact her, trying to find out what was going on and she always blamed “the shoddy workers  in Arkansas”.  When I would ask if there was anyone else I could speak with, she always said no, it was all her.

In November 2013 our elementary/middle school was successfully connected.  The high school site, however, was not and no one had any completion date set.  Ms. Blackshear said that the delay was on our end because, according to her, our site was not ready.  But it was ready and had been ready for months.  When I informed of her of this,  it didn’t make any difference, she still would not or could not dispatch anyone to the site.    Meanwhile, tensions were running high in the high school.  Our network was gridlocked, we barely had enough bandwidth to run critical processes let alone use the Internet for education.  Our counselor, teachers, principal, and I  often had to work at night and on weekends just to get routine tasks done.

Before Thanksgiving of that year, I called Ms. Hundley in Kansas City  and told her the problems we were having.  She put me in contact with Michael Frendt in Michigan who was the supervisor of Ms. Blackshear.  When I explained our situation to him, he was very apologetic, and  assured me that we would be connected before the end of the year.  I offered to meet their technicians on holidays, weekends, or snow days, but Ms. Blackshear would not schedule technicians and we were not connected. Mr. Frendt never returned my calls or emails after that.
Finally in mid January our high school was successfully connected.  This was six months after we had signed contracts, 10 ½ months after AT&T agreed to connect us. Before we were connected new state standards were released, and we were behind before we got started.

The monthly cost for both circuits is $3800.  With Erate paying 82% and our part is  about $8200 per year.  

I wish I could say that our relationship with AT&T  has improved, but unfortunately, I cannot.  Earlier this year when additional funds were released to connect buildings, I contacted Our provider to get a quote for connecting our two campuses.  Since the highway separates the campuses, we have duplicates of everything.  Each site has 3 servers, two routers, a web filter, separate phone systems, etc. Connecting our campuses would save us a great deal of money, time and greatly simplify things.    But, they did not return my repeated calls and emails for a quote.  I contacted DIS and they were able to get a quote.  To lease fiber that will enable us to join our campuses would cost over $13,000 per month.  Our monthly cost share would be around $2,300. That is more than we can afford.    When fiber was provided to us, they bore under the road and now have fiber in place.  Once again, they have the materials in place they just don’t want us to use them.  

AT&T is single handedly able to determine the quality of education in parts of our state.  For several years, students in surrounding districts had access to more online resources than ours.  Why?  Why weren’t our kids good enough?  Our kids are poor, opportunities for them in Sharp county are extremely limited.  Education is their only hope.  The state and federal government gives service providers  millions and millions of dollars to provide Internet access to rural areas, where is that money going?  There is a huge difference in what these companies tell our government officials and what they actually do.   Without the help of Congressman Crawford, we would still be waiting for bandwidth.  Now that we have it, and want to connect our campuses  they have set the price so high, there is no way we can afford it, and they know it.  This is not acceptable.

The good news is that the increased bandwidth has had an remarkable impact on our students.  Using Nsla funds we have purchased 775 Chromebooks and 400 iPads to our students. This spring we successfully completed the Parcc online field test and our ready for full testing. Each classroom, kindergarten through high school has a set of devices so every student has access, no sharing! The majority of our classrooms have some type of interactive board.   All the online sites and resources are now accessible!  Students in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades use iPads to study different topics and create presentations; students in grades 3 - 12  use chromebooks in their classrooms.  They have email accounts and our teachers are using a great new free program called Google Classroom that allows them to create and share assignments.   Sites load quicker, no more waiting, devices no longer freeze up; students now have the capability to stream online content which allows them to work at their own pace and re-address the areas when they need additional help.  In an effort to encourage our middle schoolers to read more, we have purchased over 550 ebooks.  These books can be read on any device with Internet access.  Since August 18, our kids have read 790 books!   And the list goes on.  

Finally,  the students at Cave City have access to the same wealth of information as many of the other students in Arkansas. But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t without a fight.  Every child deserves the best we can give them. I urge you all to find a way make this possible for all of our students, no matter their socio-economic

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Teachers Have the Best Job in the World

I cannot lie, this is not original, I found it on the web and really liked it!  There are people in the world that think teachers have the easiest job in the world and that we wasted our college education on being a teacher, but here are a few reasons why that simply is not true.

1.  Every single day holds a new challenge. It's never the same old thing every day.
2.  You get to have interesting conversations with interesting people every day.  Children are fascinating if you just take the time to listen to them.
3.  You can bribe anyone with food, especially chocolate.  There isn't much you can't get a kid to do for a little candy.... adults too.
4.  You never ever have to watch the clock.  There are 25 people in the room with you that will do it for you.
5.  If you have a problem, you can easily find 20 people that know the answer.
6.  No know thinks you are crazy if you suggest blowing something up.
7.  If anyone asks what you do for a living, you can honestly say, "I make a difference. Each and every day."

Monday, August 19, 2013

What If Every Day Was Like The First Day Of School?

Today, as I zig and zag my way out of classrooms throughout my district, there is one common element.  Excitement!  Most everyone is glad to be back; back with familiar faces, new faces, and a routine.  Classrooms are in order, teachers are rested, ready to teach, armed with new ideas.  Students have all their supplies, new outfits and tales of summer adventures.  There is laughter in the hallways! (I did hear a little crying in the pre-school hallway.)  It's sad it won't last.  I heard the best analogy this morning about the first day of school, "It's kind of like Christmas.  You wait and wait for it, plan, prepare, decorate, make everything as perfect as possible, and then, its over and back to reality."  I really wish I could bottle the enthusiasm of the the first day, but I could live without all the work requests!

Happy First Day Of School!

Friday, May 17, 2013

3rd Grade Has Changed!

Today  I spent the best morning I've had all year at work.  I spent the morning in the 3rd grade classroom of Mrs. Jalisa Milligan.  She and her students invited me to view their technology projects.  I wasn't really sure what to expect.  Mrs. Milligan is very tech savvy and she has passed that on to her students, but still, they're 3rd graders, how good could it be?  I'm a former high school teacher, only high school students can do cool things, right? Wrong!

These 3rd graders used iPads and created iMovies, yep, iMovies.  They took still shots and videos and made their very own short movies.  They videoed themselves using iPads, Chromebooks/netbooks, using the Promethean Board (interactive white board), reading, doing math, science and a host of other things.  The movies had sound, music, and text (they used very impressive words too!).  You may be thinking that Mrs. Milligan's class is stacked with only gifted students, but that is not the case.  She has students of all abilities, including special needs students.... and they all worked together and had specific parts in the compilation of their movies.

The kids were so excited to show their work and so proud of what they created.  Mrs. Milligan had shown the movies to the student's parents at a recent parent night event and received rave reviews, and I know why.  Their work was clean and concise, yes, there were a very few misspelled words, but if you look this blog probably has some of those too!  The point is 3rd graders are doing things with technology that most upper level students aren't.  I applaud Mrs. Milligan and the innovative things she is doing in her classroom!!

They even made a thank you iMovie for me.... sweetest thing EVER!  Things like that make me remember why I do what I do.