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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"I don't like Google Drive!"

I keep what is called a "contact log". This is a Google form in which I keep track of who I have helped and what was their need. I'll be honest, I have missed many entries, especially if they happened informally in the hallways, but I can still get good data. As the first half of the school year ended, I decided to take a look at the results gathered so far. I was not surprised to see that the number one request had to do with Google Docs.

Our school started using consistently GAFE this year. So, I can imagine it must be very frustrating for some teachers to be forced to use a tool they are not comfortable with. Of course, I remember the frequent comment from teachers saying, "I don't like Google Drive! Is there something I can do?"

All it took was to give them a few recommendations and that was enough to make their day! Here they are, from simple to complex (or should I say, from very simple to less simple) that have changed the teachers' experience with Google Drive.

1. Use the Starred feature. This will allow you to mark the files or folders that you want to keep handy. Un-star items when not necessary anymore. You don't want to keep a huge starred list that is as long as your Drive items.

2. Upload files. If there are files you have already created with another application, such as Word, they can be uploaded to your drive. In some cases, they can also be converted to Google format.

3. Create folders, and folders within folders. Organize your files by creating folders. Just like you would have done on your computer. The beauty of this is that you can nest folders within folders. Just drag and drop files and folders into other folders!

4. Color-code your folders. To make folders stand out, or to visually keep them organized, I suggest you add color to those gray folders. Besides, your drive will look much nicer!

5. Share a folder instead of individual documents. This is a simple trick to help you save time if you are in constant need of sharing files with the same people over and over again. Just adjust the Share settings to the folder instead and the permissions will spread to anything it contains. Caution with this!

6. Download the Google Drive app. This application will allow you to see your Drive contents through the Finder (Mac OS). You'll be able to manipulate the files and folders as you would with any other folders on your computer, with the advantage that anything your doing will reflect in your Google Drive!

Have you faced difficulties with Google Drive? How did you solve them? I'd love to hear your suggestions!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Instructional Strategies & Google Docs

This week at school we've been preparing for an upcoming professional development day taking place in January. This day will focus on the 9 High Yield Instructional Strategies. We will have Jane E. Pollock, author of "Improving Student Learning One Principal at a Time",  visiting our school. She will follow-through on her visit from last year and the work done by all teams and how they've incorporated the GANAG schema and the instructional strategies to their lesson plans.

As I was preparing for my team meeting, I thought, "How can Google Docs and Apps support this initiative?" This is what I brainstormed:

1. Identifying Similarities and Differences

  • Use the Spreadsheet chart capabilities to prepare comparisons.
  • Use the Drawing doc to create a mental map.
  • Use a Form to collect data that can later be graphed.

2. Summarizing and Note Taking

  • Student takes notes in a Document created by him or the teacher shares a pre-formatted Document with students.

3. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

  • Students can create a Presentation that can be shared with classmates.
  • Students can use a Form to keep a log or journal.
  • Students can create a video, upload to YouTube or to Drive and share with the world.
  • Create quizzes with Forms.
  • Simulate a quiz or trivia game with Presentations.

4. Homework and Practice

  • Use Presentations to create digital flashcards.
  • Provide templates created with Docs.

5. Nonlinguistic Representations

  • Use the Research tool to find images to add to any Doc.
  • Create a Presentation with images only.
  • Embed Youtube videos to your Presentations.

6. Cooperative Learning

  • Students can work collaboratively through any of the Google docs.
  • Create a trivia game with Presentations that students can play together as a group.

7. Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback

  • Use a table in a Document to prepare a KWL chart.
  • Insert an objective or goal slide in your lesson Presentation.
  • Create a quick survey with a Form as a pre-assessment.
  • Teacher and peers can make Comments to a Document.
  • Use Calendar to set goals and assign Tasks.
  • Have students keep an e-portfolio with Sites.

8. Generating and Testing Hypotheses

  • Write down hypotheses in a Document.
  • Use the Search tool to find information.
  • Use a Spreadsheet or Form to collect data.

9. Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

  • Create a Document with useful links and share with students.
  • Use Drawing to create a graphic organizer.
  • Use Tables in Documents to organize data.

I'm sure there are more ideas, and certainly that include other technologies other than Google Docs. If you have any more Google ideas, please make a comment. I'd love to include them in this list!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Google Teacher Academy - Check!

Well, I'm back from the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, still trying to digest all that happened. What an experience! Two days of intense learning, together with 61 more educators.

Here's an overview of what happened these days:

Day 1 - GTA - Arrived at 7:30am. Meet my team. Reception and breakfast. Welcome message and overview. Demo slam by the team leaders. First 2 break out rotations. Break and snacks. Get to know each other activity. Third rotation. Lunch. Google product demo. Last 2 rotations. Another break and snacks. Sharing of ideas. Google product demo. Digital literacy. Break. Action plans. Pinning ceremony. Dinner. End of day at 8:00pm.

Day 2 - Unconference - Arrived at 8:00am. Breakfast. Free choice hands-on sessions. Lunch. Free choice hands-on sessions. Googleplex tour. Closing. End of day at 4:30pm.

The days were packed with new information, revolving around 5 major strands: 
Visualizing your World, Sharing your World, Collaborating with the World, Exploring your World, and Searching your World. We got to see and hear first hand, from the leaders of important projects taking place in Google, what they are currently working on.

I am very impressed on how much Google has dedicated to education. There seems to be an educational value into any Google product there is. Pretty awesome!

I have tons of notes to sort through, much to remember, and a lot to try out! And to think that we just touched the surface of all the functionality of the major tools.

I value the professional learning community I have entered and the strong relationships I have established with great people from around the globe.

Thank you Google for an amazing experience and for the opportunity to help change the world!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Splashtop Whiteboard App

Hi! I'm going to tell you today about an app I've been trying out with teachers this week. I'm talking about Splashtop Whiteboard. This is an app for the iPad.

With this app you'll be able to control your computer through the iPad, just like a remote, only that you actually see and touch what's on the computer screen. But that's not all, it includes functions that you would normally find with an interactive whiteboard.

You'll be able to highlight, annotate, draw, spotlight, save the screen, and more! This is great if you don't have an interactive whiteboard and if you are doing a presentation, so you can stand away from your computer.

Besides downloading the app to your iPad device, you will need to download the Splashtop streamer to your computer. Here's the cool part, the streamer is available for Macs, PC's and Linux computers. The connection will be done via Wifi.

The instructions are pretty simple, and come along in the web site and in the quick guides that will show up when you first open up the applications.

The description of the app says you can control your computer from anywhere, even your home, that's something I have yet to try out.

Here's a recommendation of something I discovered. You'll find the sound output coming through the iPad. That's not good if you have a large audience and want to hook up  speakers. Don't worry. Go to the computer's system preferences and make sure the sound output is set to built-in speakers, after that you can hook up the speakers to the computer.

The app costs $19.99, but that's a very small price, compared to what a full interactive whiteboard would cost.

We just started at school with this and we have 12 teachers piloting this option, as opposed to using a regular IWB. If you have any feedback, I'd love to hear from you.