More Connected but Disconnected than Ever?

I recently came across this video. A powerful message sits in it and for me, it resonated with some of the issues I have been noticing with technology.

As an advocate on the benefits of technology, I also feel that I need to balance this out with some of the disadvantages of technology. One that I certainly have noticed in the last 5 years or so is how many people opt to engage in virtual worlds rather than real-world experiences (I am guilty of this too). Let’s face it, with the lures of Facebook, games, emails, texts all at the tip of your fingers, it is all too easy to disengage in those few fleeting seconds of boredom. This comes at a price however. We are robbing ourselves and our loved ones of connecting with each other in real-life. All those special moments in your life with your friends or family that allow you to look back and smile.

As an educator, I am a big believe in developing social skills within the classroom. Yes technology has a place and can be a valuable tool but it certainly shouldn’t be used all the time. I recently was working with a teacher who used laptops constantly in class to the point that she didn’t know what to do with a new student who wouldn’t have a laptop for a week. Are we becoming too dependent on technology? I just never thought that part of my job as an IT Coach would be to convince teachers to use technology less in the classroom.

My message is simple, yes we need to use technology effectively in our lives but it certainly doesn’t mean use technology constantly.  Build time in the day for your students or family to unplug and connect with each other and build meaningful relationships and enjoy real-world interactions.

An easy way to cite Creative Commons Images

As we have been working on digital citizenship a lot with our students and teachers, we are teaching them to make sure that they either provide original content or use images with a creative commons license.

In practice, this can slow down the publishing process to ensure that you are citing things correctly. More info about this here in this blog post

I found a great site that speeds up this process if you are going to use images for your blog.

For example, say I want this really cute image of this dog to put on my blog. First go to www.compfight.com and search “cute dog”.

 

Photo Credit: saikiishiki via Compfight cc

See the credit is generated automatically above!

The iPad Mini-A Solution for K-2 students?

Since the release of Apple’s new iPad mini, there has been a bit of debate whether these have a place in the classroom. Right now, we are into budgeting time and just happened to be on a year of a cycle of retiring laptops for K-3 students. Currently at our school, we are 1:1 Apple Macbooks from Grades  4-12 and have a shared trolley of laptops for Grades 1-2. However, laptops present their own host of problems for younger students.

Here are some of the issues with laptops:

  • Heavy and clunky to carry around for little hands and bodies
  • Battery life is not long on older models
  • Software is expensive
  • Difficult saving/transferring files
  • Camera isn’t high quality

There of course many advantages as well but now we have the option of purchasing (roughly) 2 iPads or 2 iPad Minis for the same cost of one laptop (not including software). The question remains, should we purchase double the amount of devices making a true 1:1 digital environment?

I would argue that it is worth it, not only for the iPad but also specifically for the iPad Mini. Just from my experience working with iPads with this age group, they are heavy (can’t believe I just said that) for younger bodies but not only for transporting but for taking photos/videos. The iPad Minis are significantly lighter (50%). Some might argue that the screen size is a lot smaller but I have measured and the iPad screen size is only about 20% smaller but has a better resolution and camera. Finally, there a growing number of apps that allow for true content creation and transformational learning experiences that are not available on computers.

Whether the lightness and thinness actually turn out to be disadvantages, remains to be seen. I am willing to take a gamble and trial it out a year.

Your thoughts??

 

 

How to embed slideshows on a WordPress Blog

A few teachers have asked me how to get dynamic photo slideshows on their blog. So I thought I would share a couple of options. Right now, most of you know how to insert photos directly into your blog post. However, if you have more than a couple of photos, this gets a bit clunky. Here’s a sample slide show of what you can post in your blog:
https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf
1. One option (as seen above) is to upload your photos to Picassa (owned by Google) and as long as you are signed into your Google Docs account, you can easily do this. Make sure you don’t use the Picassa desktop version to do this though! Personally, I am not a big fan, this application is awkward and automatically goes through every single image on your machine and tries to upload them! Instead, go to your Google docs/mail and look at the top menu. Go over until you see the “more” menu and click on the little arrow. Scroll down until you see photo and click on this (see screenshot)

 

2. Once you do this, you will be directed towards Picassa’s online photo site. Click upload and name your album. Now drag and drop your photos from iPhoto or find them on your computer.

3. Next, you need to change the privacy settings otherwise, no one will be able to see your wonderful slideshow. You can choose which one, but I like to choose, “limited-anyone with the link”

4. Finally, you need to get the slideshow embed code to paste in your blog. This is a simple copy and paste. 

5, Last but not least, go to a new blog post and click on the HTML button. Now paste that code you just copied above. Now publish your post and it should appear!

 

How to create an ebook on an iPad

We have had great success with ebook creation on an iPad. It is fast and simple to use and suitable for all ages. There were even  several MS/HS students who created eBooks using solely the iPad for all content creation. At our school, we’ve had Grade 1 students teach other students how to publish using this app. We’ve recently started a school-wide project called Write Now 1000 to be the first school to publish 1000 ebooks across all divisions and have had quite a few early adopters embrace this goal. So far we’ve published over 100 books (and counting). Another big reason for this project is to begin to collaborate with local indonesian partner schools to begin to empower many disadvantaged youth to be able to be authors as well.

Reasons for using iPad for eBook Creation

  • When you are introducing the idea of eBook creating
  • When beginning with  younger students
  • When you are creating picture books with more multimedia

Resources needed:

7 Easy steps to Follow to Creating an eBook:

1. Begin by introducing the idea of an ebook to your students. You might want to have them browse some ebooks that have been published by other students so that they have some examples and ideas

 

2. Have a storyboard or plan for the book with work that has already gone through the writing process. Have students think about key content they would like to share and consider including title page, table of contents, About the Author, glossary, references

3. Introduce the app Book Creator. This is quite simple and easy to figure out. It is important for students to be able to play and explore the app before actually beginning the book. Give them challenges such as seeing if they can figure out how to change the font size, colour, add photos, voice and video.

 

4. Begin publishing the book. Ensure that the book is proofread by a teacher or peer afterwards. Leave spaces for photos along the way.

5. Begin adding media content to the book. It is helpful to do this after the content is in the book otherwise too much time is spent with the design component. To do this, you will need to get photos on each iPad. This can be done by doing a bulk sync (slow and tedious) or using the PhotoTransfer app (paid version allows multiple photos to be transferred at a time). Voice can also be added at this stage.

6. Students do have the option of creating their own artwork using Doodle Buddy or Zoodle. You will need to save the artwork as images to the photo roll so that they can be inserted into Book Creator.

7. Do a final check and then publish. Using this app, you can either share to iBooks to be enjoyed or saved to Dropbox to be transferred to other devices.

New Beginnings

Some of you may have known that I have moved schools this year and have just started my job as the Elementary School IT Coach at Sinarmas World Academy. It is located in West Jakarta, Indonesia. It is a relatively new school (4 years old) and an absolutely beautiful campus. There is lots going on technology-wise as we are a 1:1 school from Grades 4-12 and then shared laptops for Grades 1-3. We have over 70 ipads in addition to that. The school is warm, has a community feel and a strong vision. One of the things I enjoy about the school is the fact that there is a strong blogging culture and all students, teachers and administrators have blogs which creates a learning community.

 

 

 

Automator for Technology Teachers

I have heard lots of people talk about the benefits of Automator as a way to make trivial tasks automated. It does exactly that and so much more. From a Technology Facilitator’s perspective, you are probably dealing with similar issues of managing multiple computers/laptops/computer labs. One task that I always put off (if I don’t get students to do it first) is emptying the trash and cleaning up the desktop. Well, why not let Automator do this for you in one click of a button? If you are not familiar with Automator, it is super easy to use and figure out.

Assuming you have Apple Remote Desktop client and server installed (another fabulous program), all you need to do is open Automator on the client computer. Click on Workflow and then go down to Utilities. In here, you will discover many tasks that Automator will do that you probably didn’t even think of.

A couple of workflows are posted below:

Here’s the workflow I did to empty all desktop items:

Here’s another one to quickly force quit all open applications (which inevitably happens with students):

Another one I used was to set the sleep time and wake up time. Handy if you are having computers falling asleep at times you don’t want them to.

 

There are probably tons more that would be helpful to Technology Directors or Teachers, if you have a great one, please share.