Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Protecting Your Reputation Online

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the author and creator of the Common Craft Video series, Lee Lefever.  While they are stored in a different location than their original site, the videos remain the same.  They are short, simple video simply illustrated and meant to define a more complex task or concept to someone who is a beginner to that topic.  Common Craft videos have been made on topics like blogging, Twitter, or Wikis.  They are a fantastic resource for many.
This week on Twitter a friend posted the Protecting Reputations Online Common Craft Video.  Lee Lefever does a fantastic job of illustrating and explaining an often difficult topic in a way that might help middle and high school students think twice before posting sensitive images or people's names online.  He explains how even deleted content can still be accessed and encourages kids to think before they submit anything.
I got to thinking that as we look towards the summer months all of our students will be hanging out with friends and that most of them will be carrying devices that have the potential to either create a great online reputation or to capture each and every poor choice for the world to see.  What a difference we could make by sharing one simple three minute video.

Enjoy! RY

Monday, April 29, 2013

Communication Boost

Communication with large groups of people can be a tough task.  Sometimes the communication methods don't always work for every person, some like more other complain that there is just too much to keep up with.  It is hard to find a balance.  I have even found that some forms of communication tend to be met with different comfort levels based on the age of the individuals.  My parents, for example are not great with texting and often lament that people just don't talk to each other enough.  I tend to rely heavily on email and turn to that method first yet my son's 20 something soccer coach rarely responds to emails and relies heavily on text messages.  Regardless of the form by which we communicate, sometimes we just need to get a message out to people and even large groups of people and wouldn't it be great if we were able to use a method that worked for each person.
For years I have recommended Remind101, a messaging system for teachers set up to do just that, communicate with large groups of people. I use this system to manage my son's soccer team and I cannot say enough about how easy it works.... and, there's even a remind101 app for the iPhone or Android device which I love. The added benefit of this tool is that this system keeps your information private.  Here's what it does:
  1. Teacher goes to www.remind101.com and created an account.  
  2. Add a class or group for which you would like to send messages.
  3. Print or digitally send the sign up instructions to the group of people with which you wish to communicate. 
  4. Members of your group will text to a number you code or sign up for email notifications.  
  5. You either send instant messages or schedule messages or reminders to go out as you need.  This can be done from a computer or from the iPhone/Android app.  
Teachers will not see the phone numbers of the teachers, and students will not see the teachers number either!  Teachers can create up to 10 classes for FREE!
Parents of my son's soccer team have signed up for email and text alerts and the boys on the team are getting text reminders for uniforms, practice changes and game times.  It has been a great way to help the boys learn some responsibility while staying connected in a the ways in which the individuals in the group prefer to be connected.  

Watch a video about remind101 here and consider giving it a try for a group gathering, a sports team or you class next year! RY

Monday, April 15, 2013

Typing Practice Activities

Increasing the typing skills of our students is something that we all see a need for.  Quite frankly, I have heard many of use (myself included) verbalize that we wish our own typing skills were stronger.  With the Smarter Balanced Assessments on the horizon the need for our students to improve quickly just becomes more pressing.  While we have some fantastic programs at various grade levels of the schools that will help with the instructional piece of typing, a recent post from another blog I read got me to exploring some of the Google Apps and Extensions that might support typing practice that would be fun for students at different levels in the district.  Here is what I found:

Apps for  Google Chrome:

Typing Game  - This App for Google Chrome is a very simple aliens style game that provides basic practice of typing skills.  This game got fairly good reviews and seemed to be simple enough to figure out.  I got the sense that some of the sounds might become annoying over time, but certainly something that would appeal to elementary and middle school students.  

Typing Test  - Another App for Google Chrome that support taking an online speed test.  Gives you a WPM shore and keeps track of speed and accuracy.  This test also analyzes the types of errors that you make.
Reviews are pretty good for this app as a resource for beginning typists and those who want a sense of how well they type.

Typing Club - This interesting app for Google Chrome is a series of lessons that become progressively more difficult as you go.  It teaches touch-typing and includes a school portal for free.  Experienced typists review this app quite well and it has some fantastic features such as they ability to save you exercises so you can improve lesson by lesson.

Extension For Google Chrome:

Typing Speed Monitor - This is an extension so it works in the backgroud of Chrome and records how fast you type while you are actiely typing.  It wills top recording and not take into account any breaks that you take that are longer than 5 seconds.  So this extension is unique as you can use it while doing the day-to-day work that you need to get done.  It will show you a visualization keyboard of the statistics to indicate what keys you most often use, and how fast you have typed those keys. It supports QWERTY, Dvorak and Colemak layouts.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Technology Integration

Aditi Rao, a Technology Resource specialist from Houston, Texas recently posted on her blog "teachbytes" a post about the difference between using technology and integrating technology.  At the end of her short post she created a chart to indicate what she feels the difference it.  I really love the chart and think it is definitely one to consider.  She is absolutely correct, there is a huge difference between the use and the integration of technology in the classroom.  The chart is a fantastic comparison.
What I feel compelled to point out is that we all start somewhere and that is only with the use of technology. Truthfully the hardest task is moving into the integration of technology.  The chart is great as it really focuses on the next steps, that move towards integration,  and I love the illustration as a motivation for teachers to consider their next steps.  The chart is shared below.  This blog is really great and one that you might consider looking at.