“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” —Bill Gates

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If at First You Don’t Succeed…Try Again!

I'm not sure when or how I first heard about something called the Google Teacher Academy. That was several years ago. I glanced through the program and didn’t consider it because I thought, “if only a few are selected, I’m not even going to come close, so I think I’ll just pass”.

Last year, I was encouraged by a colleague, who was already an Apple Distinguished Educator, to apply for such recognition. I did just that, and to my surprise I was honored and selected ADE 2012. “There’s no stopping me now!”, I thought.

Shortly after, the opportunity came around again but now with Google. I was looking for PD opportunities, related to my new position as tech trainer. My school was about to deploy Google Apps for Education. It seemed to me that Google was the way to go. I learned from another colleague that there were Google Certified Trainers and Google Certified Teachers. That’s what I wanted!

I looked at the requirements for each of them: I had to take 6 tests regarding Google Apps, attend a Google Teacher Academy, complete a comprehensive application, and commit to delivering courses at school.

The opportunity came around. Applications for the Google Teacher Academy, taking place in New York, opened up. I created my video, filled out the application, and sent it all. A few weeks later, the decision day arrived. I received the notification. It said I had not been selected. Bummer! Well, better luck next time. I was determined to try again, and again, as long as it would take.

Meanwhile, I completed the 6 tests and earned Google Qualified Individual status. I became more active on Twitter, I started my blog, updated my web site, and became more and more involved with using Google Apps.

Then, another opportunity arrived, now to the GTA in Mountain View, taking place in December. I reviewed the previous application and video I had submitted. I made some changes to the application and created a brand new video. This time I had more to add to the application. A few weeks later, decision day arrived again. I received the notification. This time it said something different. The first thing I read was, “Congratulations!”. Yes! I had been accepted! Yay! I was so excited!

I’m counting the days and looking forward to attending this much desired academy. I feel honored to be part of this select group of fine teachers and hope to make lifelong friends and partners and work together to support education and technology.

Stay posted, once I attend the academy, I’ll write about my experience and even publish some pictures.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Online Safety & Security

I’ve been having sessions with parents regarding digital citizenship topics. One of the sessions, I call “Be Wise, Protect Yourself”, has to do with online safety and security. I can’t stress enough the importance of these measures anyone can take to ensure their own and their loved ones’ safety and security.

We start by differentiating what each term stands for:

• Online Safety refers to making sure you and your kids are not harmed, physically or emotionally, through inappropriate images, videos, content, and interaction with an unknown person that makes you feel uncomfortable.

• Online Security refers to making sure your personal information, your files, and equipment are protected from viruses, damage, and thefts.

Basic Safety Measures:

  • Be careful when giving out personal information.
  • Don’t post photos and don’t tag them.
  • Don’t accept contacts you don’t recognize.
  • Kids should tell a trusted adult of anything that seems suspicious.
  • Adjust privacy and security settings.

Basic Security Measures:

  • Password protect when possible.
  • Use a strong password.
  • Sign-out of applications and accounts.
  • Avoid using the “remind-me” checkmark.
  • Look for secure connections (https).
  • Caution when giving out private information.
  • Adjust privacy and security settings.

If you have any experiences to share or have more advice, feel free to comment.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reducing the Size of PDF Files

Why would someone want to reduce the size of a pdf file? I had to do that…twice. When I asked our webmaster if she could please upload to the school’s web site the handouts I made for parents, she said they were too big. So, this is how I solved the problem.

My goal was to have my presentation available to parents so they could download it at home. The presentation was made with Keynote, a software application for presentations, part of the iWorks suite, for Macs.

The first thing I did was convert the keynote file to pdf format. How? 
File –> Export –> PDF.
The original .key file was 111 Mb. Way to big! I knew that, that’s why I converted to pdf. Smart me! Now I had reduced the size to only 4.3 Mb. I also took away the videos, and only included links. That should do the trick. Right? Wrong! Turned out it was still too big. The web master told me it would be best to have the file size down to about 1Mb. 
But how? No matter what I removed, I couldn’t take it under 3 Mb. Finally, the solution! Pretty simple, let me show you.

1. Open the pdf file. In a Mac, when you double-click on a pdf, it opens up with the Preview application.

2. Under File, go to Export.
3. From the pull down menu for Quartz Filter, choose Reduce File Size. Save and Replace.
4. Voila! Piece of cake! After that, the file size did reduce, now down to 506 Kb! Perfect! 
The quality wasn’t bad at all and the web page’s loading time is really good. After that, I’m reducing all my handouts, especially if they are going to be uploaded.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Digital Citizenship & Parents

Last year, as part of my job as tech trainer, I became involved with training parents too.

Early in the school year, parents were asked to respond to a general survey asking them about their tech interests. The majority mentioned wanting to learn how to help their children with security and safety, cyber-bullying, digital footprints, etc. At the same time, at the elementary campus, from K-5, we applied short surveys to students to see how much they already knew about digital citizenship topics. Results from K-1, like the ones below, raised some red flags. We were sure that we needed to bring the parents on board in order to make our digital citizenship program initiative a successful one.
So I took upon this huge task and started to look for the best way to approach this. In my search I gathered a large collection of online resources. I created a chart to categorize the resources according to the grade level, and developed a scope & sequence chart for the digital citizenship curriculum. (Which is still a work in progress.) One of the best resources I found is Common Sense Media. (http://www.commonsensemedia.org) I highly recommend it. It includes valuable information for all of us: teachers, parents, and students. It has up-to-date information, hundreds of videos, reviews, and even lesson plans.
To better prepare myself, I enrolled in ISTE's Digital Citizenship Online Professional development Course. (http://www.iste.org/store/product?id=2302). From one of the lessons, I confirmed the notion that parent education is key to a solid DC program, and the importance of having a school web site dedicated to this important topic.

I am proud of the time and effort I put forth into building our very own Digital Citizenship web site at school. Take a look, I am sharing the link to the site. I hope you find it useful. I am open to any comments you may have. http://www.asfm.edu.mx/parents/tools/digital-citizenship

Much of the content and framework included in this site comes from Common Sense Media, to whom I am very grateful, plus bits and pieces from other sources, and another chunk from my own experience. Additionally, I am running weekly hands-on workshops with parents. I truly enjoy meeting with parents and getting to know their points of view and experiences, and we all learn together!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Creating Tutorials with Quicktime

Dear Reader, 
Before I continue, I will make a small disclaimer: The experience I am sharing in my posts is mainly my work with Apple Computer devices, as well as with software for Macs. But still, I hope you find it useful.

Before Jing (http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html) allowed uploading videos to YouTube, it would only generate .swf files. A format that YouTube doesn't accept. A fact I learned the hard way.

I was preparing small videos with tutorials for teachers so they would feel more comfortable when they would start using Edmodo (http://www.edmodo.com). I was going to need about 30 in total. (Remember, small chunks of information is better.) I was faced with the frustration of already having created half of the videos and worried about the other half I needed. Honestly, I didn’t want to redo them, it had been a lot of work and now I didn’t have time. I thought to myself, “There has to be a way!”. In my search for that option, I came across Quicktime.

I’m sure there were other ways, but this was a simple, quick, painless solution. I looked for online converters, but they didn’t really satisfy my needs. Well, turns out you can record with Quicktime! Just choose File -> New Screen Recording. To think that all this time I thought it was just a video player. It had been always right there in front of me. 

How did it work? Simple. What I did was play my .swf files one at a time, recorded them with Quicktime, then uploaded the .mov files to YouTube. Yes, I know, the quality suffered a bit, but I didn’t have time to redo them. After “recovering” the videos, I went ahead and created the new ones I needed. Piece of cake!

By the way, Quicktime also allows movie recording and audio recording. 

So there you have it, this is the story of how Quicktime saved the tech trainer’s day!