Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Virtual Classroom using Google Classroom

Google Classroom is available for schools who are using Google Apps for Education.  This tool will allow teachers to setup a virtual classroom environment for their students.  Here is a quick video introduction of the power of Classroom. 

Teachers who are using Google Apps for Education must create an account and create a class.  When a class is created, a class code is generated.  The code must be shared with the students so they can join the class.

Once the students join the class, the teacher can post announcements, manage assignments, manage class rosters and email students directly from within Google Classroom.

Here is a presentation about Google Classroom.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday: Browser Extensions

Here is  a list of browser extensions that may be helpful for social media marketing. All of these extensions can be found at the Chrome Webstore.

  • Shares links, pictures and videos from anywhere you are on the web.
  • animated GIF's 
  • Allows you to view your Instagram feed in your browser.
  • URL Shortener
  • Allows you to view a person's full profile in Twitter.
  • Allows you to view your webpage on a specific resolution size.   This would be good for testing your website for mobile devices.
  • Provides analysis of the hashtags you tweet.
  • Provides a quick view of share stats on any page.
  • Allows you to screen capture the whole or a portion of a page.
  • Allows you to keep track of content on the web.
  • Provides a score on your social media presence
  • Provides analysis for Google Plus
  • Customizes your Facebook experience

You can view the entire article on the Buffersocial website.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Voxer What?

Voxer is a FREE walkie talkie app that is available on the Play Store and iTunes Store.  It is a great tool to collaborate with your co-workers and peers and to get a quick comment or question to someone.  

First, you must download the app onto your device.  Then you must create an account.  Finally, search and connect with others.  The purpose of  this app is to allow your contacts or members of a group to collaborate together on questions, issues or comments.  It is an easy way to contact someone without having to use email.   

Use in Education:

This year, I created two digital PLC groups using Voxer for the staff at the +William Davies.   I encouraged the staff to download the app, search and connect with me.  Once they did that, I added them into one or both of my digital PLC groups. 

My digital PLC groups are #Davies Tech Integration Group and #Davies GAFE Group.  Both of these groups allow me to be accessible to staff in case they have a question or comment for myself or for the group. The #Davies Tech Integration Group will include comments and questions from staff about technology integration.  The #Davies GAFE Group will include comments and questions from staff about Google Apps for Education.  Each group has different members added to it and everyone in the group can hear the comments.

Some features about Voxer:  
  • you can create groups or chats
  • you can speak or text your comment or question
  • you can attach a picture to your comment
  • invite your friends to Voxer
  • turn on/off notifications
So far, I find using Voxer to be easy, and convenient.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Getting Ready for the HP Chromebooks

The first full week at the +William Davies Middle School, I was very busy unpacking, enrolling and testing 75 HP Chromebooks to be used and shared by 6th grade students.  Staff and students at the William Davies Middle School have been in a 1:1 environment for the past 4 years.  However, because of the cost to maintain the netbooks, the district was not able to afford a 1:1 environment any more.  To offset the expense of school devices, administration is implementing a BYOD policy for staff and students. They were able to purchased 75 HP Chromebooks for students and will be purchasing an additional 40 HP Chromebooks for staff.

This year is a transition year.  While 7th and 8th grade students will be 1:1 using their netbooks, 6th grade students will have to share the Chromebooks, but they do have the option to bring their own device.  Here is what has happened so far:

  • The tech department has added an open wifi to our network that will allow the Chromebooks and other devices to connect to it. 
  • I enrolled all 75 Chromebooks into our Google Apps for Education domain.
  • +Joe Knopp and I tested the Chromebooks on the open wifi to ensure Internet surfing was successful. There were many changes the network administrator had to allow for with the Chromebooks to enroll and surf the Internet successfully.  
  • I setup the Chromebooks in the GAFE domain as public kiosk and setup other policies for the devices.
  • An understanding was established for students using their own devices.  They will not be allowed to use their devices in the hallways, bathrooms, and locker rooms.  This may change as needed.
Here is what still needs to be done:
  • Students will need a lesson on using the Chromebooks.  I will make a screencast on the care of it, handling it, proper shut down procedures, etc.
  • Some of the policies are not being enforced on all of the Chromebooks.  I have a call in for Google Tech Support to assist me with this issue.
  • Setting up carts
  • Labeling the devices
  • Teachers need to know the procedures on sharing the devices.  This will be handled between the teachers.  Right now, the plan is one cart will be shared between two teachers, and they will have to agree on the arrangements. 
  • Constant professional development and support to teachers and students who are using the devices and GAFE.
  • Teacher training on the Chromebooks
  • Teacher laptops will be taken away and replaced with Chromebooks
Once the Chromebooks and other devices are being used, I know there will be changes made to improve the process of using them.  Since this is a transition year, everyone involved in this process will need to adjust their teaching methods and be flexible to allow for this type of technology integration.  For example, teachers will have to allow students to implement the use of other apps on their own devices.  

As I mentioned to staff who are involved in this transition, an "Unlearn and Relearn" attitude will help ease the stress of implementing technology.  Not only are we implementing BYOD, but we are implementing Google Apps for Education, and Google Classroom.   It's okay to take risks, explore the unknown, and make mistakes, that is how we all learn!  Without mistakes, we will never get better!  

I will continue to document my experiences with Chromebooks, Google Classroom, Google Apps for Education, and BYOD at the William Davies Middle School.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Themes in Google Forms

Finally, Google has added new themes in Google Forms.  There is such a variety now, from knives and forks to ski lifts, to city scenes.

To access the new themes, login to your Google account, go to Drive, create a form, and select 'change theme' at the menu bar.  A list of themes will be displayed on the left side of your screen.  Just scroll through them and select one.  You will be satisfied with the selection!

Here are some screen shots of the themes:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tech Tip Tuesday: Are you lost? Get your Coordinates!!

Last week, I had a little mishap.  I was out crabbing with my family, when I suddenly noticed our boat was taking on water!  We immediately pulled up our crabbing lines and we were able to drive to a close by abandoned dock.  Once we were there, I called for help.  I provided Sea Tow with the coordinates of my location that was on my Garmin GPS.  To make a long story short, thankfully, we were towed in and were all safe back on dry land.  It sure was a scary experience!

However, the techie side of me wanted to use my smartphone and Google Maps to figure out my exact location of where I was stranded on my boat.  It was not as obvious as I would have thought.

So this is what I did:

  1. First, make sure the GPS setting is turned on on your smartphone. I have a Samsung S4 smartphone.
  2. Next, open up Maps on your smartphone, (Google Maps).  
  3. Once the map shows where you are, zoom in on your location.
  4. Tap and hold down the blue arrow or blue circle which indicates your vehicle or location. (You should get prompt for a dropped pin)
  5. Tap the location that it found, or the term 'dropped pin'
  6. Tap, 'Share', 'Gmail' to send the email to yourself.  This will send you an email with a link to a Google Map of your location.  
  7. Open up your email, click on the link and you will go to a Google Map that displays your location and coordinates.  The coordinates will be displayed in the browser tab, and on the dropped pin on the map.