I can’t stop thinking about this article which I read yesterday.
I am excited to see what children in a zero literacy village without electricity did with zero instruction with OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) laptops. It is mind blowing. I would have loved to have heard the kids’ conversations as they figured it all out. I actually got goosebumps when I read about how kids share their learning with their parents.
At the same time, I am really worried. I feel like the article has no implications for schools in the developed world except that we are creating drones. Even my own school is now giving the MAP test and it is eating up more and more time.
Some day these third world kids are going to trounce our students who are learning how to regurgitate, not how to learn and think. I just watched this snippet of Alfie Kohn explaining the difference between achievement and learning.
I know those Ethiopian children were learning. I worry that more and more often, my students are only achieving — and not enough of the parents and teachers think that is a problem.
Google has a strange habit of hiding some of its best features. For example, there are a number of powerful filters you can apply to a search with just a few clicks. One filter that we are finding especially useful for children is the reading level search.
For our 8-through-11-year-olds we tell them to start with Basic. We remind the children that unlike their fiction reading, research texts should be at or below their reading level. What is import is that the text is useful, meaning that it helps answer their research question.
Here are the directions I created for our students and staff.
Nothing special about this presentation I created to keep me on track during the lesson. Feel free to make a copy if it is of use to you.
@BrianLockwood alerted me to Stick-N-Find stickers a while ago. Looks like they are finally available for purchase.
I love seeing this type of powerful technology available for household use. I want to stick on one my husband the next time we go to IKEA. I also want one on my pedometer which occasionally escapes from me. How would you use these?
It feels like I have been searching for a great task manager forever. The longer I look and test products, the more I feel like Goldilocks…
“This one’s too flat.”
“That one’s too complicated.”
“That one’s too difficult to view.”
…and so on.
Back in my Palm III days I used LifeBalance by Llamagraphics. I loved it. It was the first task manager I had ever used that included context. I’d be out running errands and it would show me that if I was going to Target I should remember to pick up the dry cleaning that was only two blocks away. It also helped my align my tasks with my values and it had a llama for its icon. What’s not to like?
I kept with it until I moved to Singapore. I had a Mac at home, a Windows XP machine on my desk, and an old Palm something in my pocket. Let’s just say that back in 2006 that combo didn’t work. Those three platforms did not share data nicely.
From there I tried a few things and ended up with Toodledo.com. I really like its feature set. It is highly configureable so I could get it to work the way that worked best for me. In my new job, I found I needed sub-task that to keep organized. By go for the pro subscription I was able to get that feature for a reasonable annual fee.
When an iphone finally entered my life, I discovered that quite a few todo apps for the phone could sync with Toodledo.com. I settled on 2Do because it was well-designed and attractive. That combination worked quite well.
Eventually, that system started to break down. I realized the problem was email. When I was a classroom teacher, most of my tasks came from me. I was writing units, reviewing units, scoring assignments, etc. When I became a tech coordinator (and now a tech coach), suddenly the majority of my tasks originated in my inbox. My Toodledo system broke down because I had to copy everything into my task management system. I needed a system which streamlined that workflow.
I was really excited to read about The Secret Weapon. It was a system that made use of the strengths of Evernote to tame my inbox tasks. It played well with GTD. It was flexible and powerful. It synced between web, desktop and phone. It made use of apps I was already using.
It took me an entire afternoon to get all setup and move my task lists, but I immediately knew it was a good system. I could email directly from my inbox into Evernote. I could assign tags for context and priority in the subject of the email letter as I forwarded it. It was easy to sort and search. Things were getting done. Life was good.
Then Evernote rolled out a major update. For overall usability it was a brilliant update. For my task management system it was not so good. On my phone, the new views made my tasks more difficult to view. More importantly, the labels, which are essential in this system, were buried multiple click away. Around the same time, Gmail changed its message creation interface. As with Evernote, it is a big improvement for most things, but changing the subject line was more cumbersome and that is a key step in the system I was using. Not too surprisingly, my system started to fall apart not long after the update.
This weekend I started poking around. I still needed a task manager in a major way. Keeping my tasks in my head is a recipe for failure. As I started my search, I revisited Toodledo.com. It is a great system. However, nowhere on its site do I see mention of being able to email tasks into the system. I know that in my current tech coach job, I must have that.
I did a search for task management apps with email. Most of the hits allowed you to email tasks out of the app but not in. I also want something that syncs in the cloud an
And so, my search begins again. For this search, these are my criteria.
- cloud sync between computer, web and iPhone
- able to quickly create a task
- not completely flat – I don’t want my home and work tasks in the same list
- able to email tasks from inbox into system.
- good usability within the app
- recurring tasks
- folders and labels
- able to assign a priority
- multiple filters
- visually appealing or visually neutral (not so cluttered I can scan my list)
First I looked at Good Todo. It is a very slick, flat task manager. You can create tasks in the web app or on your phone. You can send tasks from your inbox. It is organized by time. By default you see today’s tasks. You can view tomorrow, later in the week, etc. When you send tasks from your inbox, where you send them determines where they end up in the system. For example, I could send it to email@example.com and the task would appear in tomorrow’s task list. It is very easy to redate a task, and the system is smart enough to move uncompleted tasks to the next day. The interface is uncluttered. The free account allows for two categories so I can separate home tasks from work tasks.
There is a free account that allows you to create 10 tasks per day. The premium account only costs $3.00 per month and gives you unlimited task creation. The iphone app is free. At the moment, this limit is a problem. Once I have the system established I could probably keep to the 10 per day limit. However, right now I need to transfer in my current tasks. Unfortunately, there are more than ten of them. I’m keeping GoodTodo in mind as I continue my search.
My husband mentioned a program he had just read about. While he when scrolling back through sites he often reads to find it, my search turned up Producteev.
Producteev appears to meet everything on my basic and desired requirement lists. Like my Secret Weapon system with Evernote, it not only allows me to send tasks from my inbox. It also allows me to assign me to set the date due, assign priority and apply a task. It has a slew of configurable notifications. If you have it inform you of items that are past due via email or SMS, you can reply “done” and it will be marked as such. It has a free/premium model with most of the premium features applying to workgroups.
The task manager my husband had read about is called Mailbox. It is currently a smartphone app that works with Gmail. Mailbox is in the process of its initial rollout. It looks to have great usability and make powerful use of the phone’s touch interface.
To get on the waitlist, download the free app and sign up for a reservation. You can track your progress on the reservation list via the app. I am thinking I will have plenty of time to test out Producteev since this is what the app says this afternoon…
What I can’t tell is if there is any kind of desktop interface. If it doesn’t have that, it won’t be of much use to me since I probably process 60% of my email at a computer and the other 40% on my phone.
Here is the promotional video from their website. No drooling!
Update: My solution above quit syncing between my devices. Fortunately, I discovered that Toodledoo.com does allow me to forward email messages as tasks. Thus, I have come full circle: I am back to using Toodledoo.com on my computer an 2Do on my iOS devices. It is working really well. An addition, today I was finally allowed into Mailbox. I haven’t had time to get my inbox down to zero so I can give it a good test. That is on my list for this week.
This year, every month one of the Monday faculty meetings is devoted to technology. This month we are modifying a great idea from Dana Watts and having an iPad Appy Hour. There won’t be any drinks, but it should still be a fun way to help our teachers use their iPads for formative assessment.
We have a great lineup of workshops. Some were introduced by teachers at last month’s iPad Slam. Others are less well known to staff. Here’s the lineup.
We needed another topic so I agreed to research how to use Evernote for formative assessment. I thought it would be a great tool since it syncs between the website, your computers and your smartphones. The more I dug into the topic, the more pleased I was with Evernote as a teacher tool.
Here is the presentation I created to assist me during the workshop. You are welcome to modify it for your own use.
Early I posted about the digital privacy lesson I used with my fourth grade classes. After that lesson I went on to use the cyberbullying lesson I have detailed in this post.
Before we meet on the carpet students open their blog post titled My Online Life. At the start of the year, they created that post. In it they listed our school’s core values as headings. Beneath those headings they listed what they already knew about being safe and respectful online. After that lesson, students have added their new learning into the blog post using a different font color.
To start our cyberbullying lesson we view a PSA video titled The Talent Show. Like the Bulletin Board video from the earlier lesson, the PSA channel no longer has these videos. All the copies I’ve found in You Tube are a bit blurry but still worth using.
I use this Google Presentation as my visual as we discuss the important terms of cyberbully, target, bystander and upstander.
Next they play the Evolve game in www.digitalpassport.org. Refer to the Digital Privacy lesson for more information on Digital Passport. In this game, they make choices that allow their character to evolve into a bystander and to know how to get help if they are being bullied.
As they finish playing the game and writing on their blogs, we check what they have written on their blog post, stretching students whose answers don’t show a rich understanding of the information.
At the end of class, I show them this video. If time permits I play it once through, then play it again stopping throughout to think aloud or have students turn and talk to identify the bully, the target, the bystanders and the upstander. With each class I have found it to send a powerful message.
If time permits, I follow it with this video since it sends such a positive message of empowerment.
Does your school use Gmail and Google Calendar? Feel free to share these very basic directions with staff who many need assistance creating an event and inviting others to it. You can also view them here.
Create a Meeting in Google Calendar
Open your Gmail Calendar.
Find Other Calendars in the left navigation bar.
Type the person’s name in the search box.
Select their email address when it pops up.
That person’s name will appear in your calendar list.
Make certain the box to the left of their name has a color. If it is white, click on it once. That will make their events appear on your calendar.
Find a blank spot on the calendar.
The completely white spaces on the calendars are times that you are both free. Select one by double-clicking on it.
If your screen looks like this you did not double click; you only clicked once.
Click Edit event.
Fill in the event information.
1. Give the event a title.
2. Check that the date and times are correct.
3. List a venue.
4. Write a note regarding the meeting.
On the right side of your screen, click in the search box below Add: Guests. Start typing the person’s name.
Select their email. Click enter.
Each time you add a person their name is added to the guest list.
You can delete someone by clicking the X after their name.
Verify the date and time on your calendar.
If you need to make changes, double-click the event. Remember to save your changes.
You have now invited someone to a meeting. You can double-click on the event on your calendar to see who has responded to your invitation.
I spent part of this afternoon prepping for a lesson I am teaching tomorrow. The lesson should help our grade four students take what they know about non-fiction text structures and help them transfer it to reading online. Here is what I have planned.
(5 minutes) First we will use this presentation to make the connection that text features, like facial features or road signs, help us navigate. Then we will review some common text features. (NOTE: The text feature posters in this presentation were created by Beth Newingham. She shared them on the Scholastic.com blog.)
Next, we will use this Text Feature Scavenger Hunt. I created it as a Google spreadsheet so we can all use it at once. (Hopefully we will be blessed with speedy internet. If we aren’t, we will have to work in larger groups or all together at the IWB.)
(5 minutes) I will model how I scan a webpage to inventory it. On the scavenger hunt I put a 1 in the column of each text feature that I find. As the students work, the totals for each feature will appear at the top of the page.
(10-15 minutes) Students will work in pairs to inventory the text features on their assigned web page. I am pairing them by computer number since this is a quick activity and reading level should not be a problem. I want them seated near each other so they can discuss which features are and are not on the page. I am hoping that by pairing them they will locate more features per page and that the discussion they have will help them learn. (I used the reading level feature in Google’s advanced search to find pages that should be of an appropriate reading level.)
If they finish quickly, they can scroll down and inventory another web page. If all the sites are taken they can visit sites already evaluated to see if the first pair missed any features.
(5 minutes) When all the pages have been inventoried, we will come back together as a class to discuss what we discovered. After our discussion, I will model how to complete one of the red cells near the bottom of the spreadsheet. That space is for explaining how that text feature helped me navigate the page and understand what I was reading.
If time permits, our final activity will be for students to add a post to their blogs regarding what they learned. They can use the red rows on the spreadsheet to help them get started.
In the next lesson, I might use a form similar to this one. I’d want to find really high interests sites since the activity itself won’t enthrall them.
A few words about the websites:
- You could improve this lesson by drawing pages from a greater variety of websites. I drew quite a few pages from the same site because it was pulling in quite a few different text features.
- I avoided pages with almost no text features. However, if time permits I may pull some up to show that they are more difficult to read.
Feel free to use this tutorial. If it isn’t displaying well, you can also view it here.
I created it using Clarify software. If you use that and would like the original file to make modifications, leave me a comment.
Creating a Google Site
In Google Chrome, open your Gmail or Google Drive
Find the black menu bar near the top of your screen. Click on Sites.
1. Click Blank template.
2. Type the name for your site. This will become part of your site’s address.
3. This shows entire address of your website.
4. Select a theme. Click on a theme to see how it looks. The theme can easily be changed at any time.
5. Click Create.
Write on your home page.
Click on the pencil to start writing on your home page.
Change the Page Name
By default the front page of your site is titled Home. Type over the word home and that will change the page’s name and address.
Save your page.
Create a New Page
Click the page with a + next to the pencil to create a new page.
1. Type the page title. It will appear at the top of the page and in the page’s address.
2. Select a location.
If it is a new type of page put it at the top level. In the example below, Class Photos, Calendar, Word Study, etc. are at the top level.
If it is a new page of the same type, choose the second option. For example, if you make a new page for each newsletter, you might them all under a main newsletter page. In the example below, each week page is beneath Home.
3. Click Create.
The MORE Button
Use the More button to manage your website.
Go to the Page actions section if you want to delete the page you are on. You cannot delete the home page.
Most of the time you will go to the Site actions section. Let’s go there now to Edit site layout.
You can have one or more sidebars on your site. The site below has 3 sidebars, Classes, Quest Boards, and Helpful Information. You can also turn off the sidebar.
Add a sidebar
Click the Sidebar + sign to add another sidebar.
Next, select what type of sidebar you want. If you want to add links, select Navigation.
To hide all sidebars click the sidebar button. Click it again to reveal them.
Horizontal Navigation Bar
This site has a sidebar and a horizontal navigation bar. Weekly Update, Schedule, Blogs, Music News, Contact Info. and Classroom Policies are pages on this website that can be accessed from the horizontal navigation bar.
Edit Horizontal Navigation Bar
Click above the sidebar to edit the horizontal navigation.
Click Add page.
Type the name of the page you want and click the search button,
find the page in the site map, then click OK.
Click on a page in the list and then use the arrow keys to move it to your desired location on the horizontal navigation. Click Done.
When you are done editing the site layout click the Close button to return to the website.
Embed a Calendar
Google Calendars can easily be embedded into your site. First you need to change the calendar’s settings.
1. In Google Calendar click on the name of the calendar you want to use. Click on the arrow that appears to the right of the title.
2. Click Calendar Settings.
Click the link to Share this Calendar.
1. Tick the Share this calendar with others box.
2. Tick Make this calendar public.
3. In the drop down menu select See all event details.
4. Click Save.
5. Click Back to calendar.
Add the calendar to your site.
Go to the page on your site where you want to embed the calendar. Click the pencil to edit the page.
Click the Insert menu.
Tick the calendar you want to embed.
Select the View.
Tick the Display Options you want.
Save the page to view your calendar.
Embed a Google Doc into your site
To embed a Google Doc, open the doc in your Google drive.
In the File menu click Publish to the web…
Tick the box to Automatically republish when changes are made.
Click the Start publishing button.
Go to the page on your site where you want to embed the page. Click the pencil to start editing the page.
Click the Insert menu.
Tick the document you wish to embed. If you don’t see the document, use the search field to find it.
Tick the Display options you want to use.
Save the page to view the document.
Creating a Google Site by Susan Sedro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
I am always on the lookout for effective digital citizenship activities for elementary students. This fall I was delighted to learn that Common Sense Media developed a website for students in grades 3-5 focusing on digital citizenship.
I have been impressed with their teaching materials but the lessons were always too long for the time I had with the children. This new site is brilliantly made. There are five modules. For each module the lesson plan gives you an opening activity. Then students login to the website. The format for each online part of the lesson is first there is a video with middle school kids. This imparts some information. Then the kids play a game using and building on that. Then more video or other information, followed by round 2 of the game. Then there is a final round of the game and a wrap up. Completing all of that unlocks a paper and pencil mission.
For the digital privacy lesson I modified the lesson a bit and it was highly effective. First, we watched this video,
We watch it through once. The kids really seem to relate to it.
Then we watch it again with me pausing it to think aloud or give them chances to pair and share.
Next I teach them to login and they play. Students found the games engrossing and the questions asked during the games were a just the right level. No one failed miserably or always got them all correct.
When they finished, they logged into their blogs. Earlier we had created a blog post that lists our school’s core values of respect, responsibility, honesty, fairness and compassion. Under each heading they listed what they already knew about being safe and respectful online. Now, using a color other than black, they listed their new learning. Some students needed to be prompted a bit to write anything but even those students had gleaned the important information from the games.
All in all, this has been a highly effective and engaging lesson with high quality materials. I recommend it without hesitation but with a few tips.
- I set up the student accounts using their school username and the strong passwords they developed at the start of the year. When they first login to the site, after they select their avatar, it tries to make them change their password. We just hit the browser’s back button and logged in again and it didn’t ask again.
- Sometimes a window pops up during game play asking the child to reset or logout. Quickly hitting reset allowed the game to continue. Wait to long and you are logged out and must start again.
- One day Share Jumper would freeze for approximately 30 seconds. Sometimes, using the up arrow would unfreeze it.
The biggest challenge was setting up the student accounts. You can upload a class at a time as a .csv file. However, the process is quirky. After lots of experimentation here is what worked for me.
- Export my workshop of all my class logins from Google Spreadsheet to Excel.
- Open the Excel workbook. Right-click on a class tab and select Move > to a new workbook.
- Cut out any unneeded rows, all headings and any line highlighting.
- Set up your columns without headings in this order: First Name, Last Name, Unique Identifier, Username, Password. The unique identifier is supposed to be able to be left blank. However, for me the upload failed unless I had something in their so I used the student’s ID numbers.
- Copy all the data and paste it into a new blank worksheet in a new workbook.
- Set the print area.
- Save As > Windows comma-separated (.csv)
Then I could cleanly upload the data. Why the extra step of pasting into a new worksheet? I don’t know. All I know is that those are the only steps that consistently worked.