Our school has been slowly rolling out Google+. We started in the high school where both staff and students are able to have access to it. The principal now uses their HS community for his daily announcements. They are using Google+ for their groups and clubs. Last spring we also began using it with select cross-school committees.
One reason for our slow roll out was the challenges Google+ was creating for YouTube channels and working with photos in Picasa web. Now that those are mostly resolved, we wanted to roll it out to the rest of the faculty and staff.
Our first challenge was finding a compelling use for Google+ and to clarify when to use Google+, when to use email and when to meet face-to-face. We created an ES Faculty community and we allowed everyone to join the community being used by our research and development team.
We did a soft roll out in December. We flipped the switch and let staff know it was there and that there would be training at a later date. That way, eager adopters could get started and the rest know why the new link appeared in their Google Apps.
Next year our primary and intermediate schools will merge into one larger school. The ed tech departments have already merged, moving into a shared space in the elementary library. For the Google+ training, we worked with intermediate staff in one session and the primary staff a few weeks later. It was efficient to have all of us in there supporting the faculty.
Prior to the workshops we sent out directions to enable everyone to set up their Google+ profile and tweak the notifications.
In the workshop there was confusion around Google+ circles since that is the main organizational tool in Google+ but we are primarily using Communities. Some people were relieved to realize they didn’t have to follow everyone back or add them to circles.
Within the week, we were having questions regarding editing their profiles. Specifically they wanted to know where to change their avatar and turn of the photos and videos tabs. I created the following short tutorial to assist them.
Editing Your Google+ Profile
Open your Google+ profile.
1. Click on your avatar.
2. Click View profile
If you want to change which tabs visitor can view on your profile…
Click Home > Settings.
Scroll down to the Profile section.
Tick or untick boxes to control which profile tabs are visible to visitors.
When you are done with your Voicethread, there are a few more steps to get it ready for your blog.
If you are in your Voicethread, click on the gear in the top, left corner.
Select Publishing Options.
Tick the first three boxes.
Then press Save.
Click Playback Options
- Change the wait to 1 second.
- Tick all the boxes that you can tick. Don’t worry if you can’t tick as many as are ticked in this photo.
- Click Save.
Copy the Embed Code.
Go to Blogger.
Click the New Post button.
Click the HTML Button.
Paste and Publish.
Paste the embed code into the text box.
Click the Publish button.
View Your Blog Post.
Logout of Blogger.
Logout of Voicethread.
You did it!
For an easier to print copy of this tutorial, click here.
Our school has the great good fortune to have a Voicethread account for each student within our school account. This account follows our students from grade to grade. It plays well with our students’ Blogger blogs.
These student accounts were created during second semester last year. Most classes did not get a chance to use them. This fall, the Voicethread iPad app went through an unstable period and so no one touched Voicethread all semester. Now the app seems to be ready for prime time.
Our school Voicethread account is linked to our school Google Apps for Education domain. As a result, if students login to Google Drive, they can find Voicethread in their Google Apps Palette.
All would be fine, except that our accounts were created last year and our students have new passwords this year. When students use the Apps Palette to go to Voicethread, this window appears:
While some students due remember their password from last year, we discovered there is no way for students to change their password once they are logged in. It is better to have them update their password now. Listed below are my directions for this process. I demonstrated the process to my students. Then, using the directions below, they were able to quickly complete the process themselves. If you would like an easier to print version, click here.
Login to Google Drive and Gmail.
Open the Apps pallette in Gmail or Google Drive.
Enter your email address.
Go to your Gmail and open the message from Voicethread.
Click on the link in the message.
Enter your Google Drive password in both boxes. Click change.
You are ready to start using Voicethread.
[NOTE: An easier to print version of the tutorial can be found here. ]
Our iPad Mentor teachers really like using the Keynote app for student presentations. It is easy to use and makes visually pleasing presentations. Unfortunately, if they want students to move the presentations from the iPad onto the student blogs there is not a good workflow.
One option is to export from Keynote as a PDF, then pull it into the Explain Everything app. That works well when students want to record the narration that goes with the presentation. Transitions are lost in this method, and if the students don’t want to record anything this method doesn’t work. They can’t export out of Explain Everything unless each slide has been recorded on.
I am liking our new workflow much better. It uses the Haiku Deck app which is free, easy to use, and has fabulous images available from within the app. We can use the free Blogger app to get iFrame code into Blogger. I have detailed the steps below.
Presentations: From iPad to Blog
This tutorial explains the smoothest workflow we have found for students to create presentations on their ipad and then save them to their blog. It only requires the use of free apps.
Students create their presentation in the Haiku Deck app. The app is easy to use and has its own collection of pictures so students can quickly create attractive presentations. Students publish to their blog using the Blogger app or by logging in on the web browser.
(Note: Haiku Deck is not a good option if each presentation slide needs to have many lines of text. The text will become too small for the audience to read it.)
Before you can create presentations with your students, please complete the following tasks.
- Install the Haiku Deck app on the iPads
- Create a free class account on the Haiku Deck website: http://www.haikudeck.com/ Make certain to set it up using your class account (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
- In the Haiku Deck app tap the ? in the bottom right corner. Look at The Basics and Tutorial.
- Create a presentation using Haiku Deck so you understand it well enough to answer student questions.
In Haiku Deck with Students on the iPad
- Click the Sign In button. Enter your class account username and password. Save. This should only need to be done the first time you use the app.
- Click the + sign at the bottom of the screen to create a new presentation. Then tap edit to start working on the slide.
- If students do not finish in one class period, have them tap the MAIN MENU button in the top left corner to leave the presentation.
- When a presentation is finished, tap the Save and Share arrow in the top right corner of the screen. You may need to tap once on the screen to make that arrow appear.
- In the Save and Share window, set the privacy level to PUBLIC. You must select a category before you can press the Publish button. You may want to instruct students to make their first name be part of the title.
- When you press Publish your presenation will save to the Haiku Deck website.
When the presentation is done upload, another Save and Share window will open. Tap the Post to Blog button.
Copy the embed code starting with <iframe src and ending with </iframe> . If they leave off any part of the code, it will not embed into their blog.
Embed in Blog
Open the Blogger app on the iPad.
Tap the View Blog button at the top of the screen.
Tap the Sign In button at the top of the screen.
Have students sign into their Blogger account.
Create a new Blogger post.
- Tap the HTML button.
- Paste the embed code after the </div> tag.
- Press the Compose button. You should be able to see the presentation in the post.
1. Add the post title.
2. Add the class label.
3. Press Publish.
Ever since my first experience with kids blogging back in the spring of 2005, I’ve struggled to help kids write good comments. I think the problem arises from the comment box itself. It looks like a chat window or text box on a phone. As a result, kids seem to gravitate to writing in SMS-speak, such as “Gr8 post. CU l8tr!” Another problem is that they often want to write a comment but don’t know what to say, so they end up writing unenlightening comments such as, “I like cheese!” and “I am awesome!!!!!!!!!”
As much fun as those comments seem to be to write, they are not very exciting to receive. To that end, I’ve been revising a commenting lesson for fourth grade students for the past month. It finally went live this week. To my delight, at least in the short term, it worked.
I started with this presentation (embedded below). I worked through the first eight slides with them. There are notes for the teacher in the notes section of most slides.
Before showing the embedded video from Mrs. Yollis’ class, I draw a connection to their non-fiction critical literacy unit. One of the lessons from that unit teaches children that when you are researching a question, you are not limited to reading books at your reading level. It is okay to also read books below your reading level. What is important is that the resource is helping you answer your question.
We make that connection in this lesson to both reinforce the non-fiction critical literacy unit and to help them not feel like the video is too babyish for their sophisticated fourth grade selves.
Before they watch the video, I instruct them to try to write down at least two of the tips from the video. If they can write even more, that’s even better.
When I get to slide 9, I show them this document and point out how it has all of their notes from the video. On the second page (not shown here) I list each child’s name followed by a link to a child’s blog post. Mostly I link them to posts on blogs of other students within our school. I do this because blogging is still in its infancy at our school and I want to support our new bloggers.
(Note that this document looks much better in Google Drive. Publishing it to the web to embed here has changed its dementions.)
As students start returning to the group area with their newly drafted blog comments on sticky notes, I give each child someone else’s comment. I instruct them to write their name on the back, read the comment, and place it where they think it belongs on the rubric which I have projected on the wall.
I wanted to have each child defend the placement but there isn’t time in one 45- minute class period. Instead, we have a steady flow from comment drafting to evaluating someone else’s comment to getting feedback from me or that students regarding the comment. It is a bit chaotic but it seems to be a good balance between time available and helping them take the activity seriously. I saw number kids see their note stuck to the “Needs work” section of the rubric grab their note and walk away mutter something like, “I’ll go fix those spelling mistakes right now.”
After making suggested/needed revisions on their sticky note, students go type the comment into the blog I’ve linked them to. The first child or two who finishes early is asked to write a comment for a more difficult post. It seems that in whatever class I select there is always one student whose blog post is only one sentence long. This seems to be a good pairing since the child who finishes early is often a skilled writer. For example, today a girl wrote this comment:
Dear, Luis. Hello. My name is, Lily. You’ve got a nice picture on your blog. Is that a Philippines flag you’re holding? Is that where you’re from? I am from Canada. Maybe you could add some information about the Philippines? Write back when you can! Your friend, Lily
She wrote it in response to this blog post. See why I love my job?
So far, I’ve taught this lesson with two fourth grade classes. In both classes, most kids were able to write a comment which met the requirements listed in the middle section of the rubric. In each class a few students wrote comments which exceeded the expectations. There were usually around 4 who need to keep working. Usually that was due to not using periods or capital, not for not having the needed content.
Most of our student blogs have very few posts at the moment. When they have more on them, I will send parents the commenting guidelines and invite them to start commenting. Hopefully they will invite other relatives and friends of the family to visit the blog and leave comments.
Please feel free to use any of my materials. If you have your own Gmail account you can make a copy of each document and save it to your Google Drive. If you do use them, please let me know how they work for you.
Inspired by articles such as this one in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, over spring break this year I purchased a walking treadmill. This post will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about it.
I checked out some manual treadmills, but they were too hard for me to move. I could never have done any work while trying to get the belt to turn. Instead, I purchased a small, walking treadmill. My wonderful husband built me a simple tray to hold my keyboard and mouse. I moved a monitor bookshelf to the front treadmill to hold a large monitor and my laptop on a stand. That done, I was ready to get to work.
Being part of a treadmill desk is hard on the treadmill. It is more difficult for the motor of the treadmill to move slowly than quickly. They heat up more at lower speeds. As a result, this treadmill shuts itself off automatically after 30 minutes of use. If I had a full-time desk job, that would make this useless. However, since my desk work is fitted in-between classes, this works pretty well. Even when I do have an extended period of time to work at my desk, the 30 minute limit is not a problem because there are things I cannot do on the treadmill, such as budget work or fine graphic work.
For other tasks, I find I am better at them on the treadmill. For example, tedious work such as cut-and-paste work or setting up blogs is easier on the treadmill because part of my attention is being occupied by moving and not falling off. Phone calls are fine. Responding to emails are great, especially because now that I have Mountain Lion I can dictate them if I am the only one in the office. Given our crazy schedules, that happens more than you might expect.
There have been some funny moments. When I first started using the treadmill, I hadn’t realized that its quiet noise masked the sound of a door opening. Someone walked in and started talking to me nearly giving me a heart attack. Fortunately the only damage was to my pride. Another instance happened when I started wearing my Fitbit Flex. I forgot that it would vibrate when I reach 10,000 steps. Having my wrist suddenly vibrating startled me so much I yelped and almost fell off.
I no longer have the setup show in the photo. Over the summer, we went from having two people in the room to having four people in the room. That necessitated me moving my desk so that it’s now facing the windows. I could close the blinds completely but I really hate not being able to look out. Instead, I tilt them a bit but the backlighting is not optimal.
In my new arrangement, I am not able to set the laptop next to the monitor by the treadmill. As a result, I no longer use extended desktop. Fortunately, I have a new, much larger monitor so I can usually fit everything onto the screen that I need to see. Here is a very rough sketch of my new setup.
In this new arrangement I keep my laptop on the computer counter on a laptop stand. When I sit at the computer counter, I plug my desktop monitor into the laptop and extend my desktop so I can work on both the laptop screen and the external monitor. When I switch to to the treadmill, I just swap out the monitor cables so I can use as different large monitor in front of the treadmill.
When I am on the treadmill, I only mirror to this monitor since the laptop is down on the counter. Fortunately, my Macbook Pro is smart enough to remember different settings for different external monitors. My old Lenovo was not that smart. Now, I only need move my laptop if I want to dictate on the treadmill. In those instances, I just pull the laptop to the edge of the counter so that my headset cable can stretch all the way from the laptop to the treadmill.
I made a few refinements in the months I’ve been using this setup.
- I switched to using a trackball as my input device. Since my arm doesn’t need to move to operate it, that is my stable point while the rest of me is in motion.
- When I had to move the treadmill to its new location, I ended up with my back to the door. I put a small mirror on my bookshelf so that I can see the door when I am on the treadmill. The movement in the mirror warns me when someone arrives in case I don’t hear them open the door. I haven’t been startled off the treadmill since I did that. It also lets me see when the visitor is for me so I know to stop walking.
- I found an old wired Mac keyboard to use on the treadmill. It has a function key which makes it easy for me to start dictation. My bluetooth keyboard can be used on the treadmill but it lacks a function key.
- I plug most of the peripherals into a powered hub so I don’t have to swap cables when I move from treadmill to desktop.
Looking at this set up, you probably noticed I have more kit than most people. Fortunately, one of the keyboards and one of the monitors were old ones taken out of storage. Also fortunate that I had a trackball mouse in a drawer at home and the tray was made from an old IKEA shelf which we found by a dumpster. My only expenditure was the treadmill itself. I don’t remember how much it cost. I think in Singapore dollars the price was around $650.
So, has the experiment improved my health? I think so. In the past, days I spent at my desk made it difficult to reach my goal of 10,000 steps. Now if I manage to fit in even an hour on the treadmill, I end up easily reaching my 10,000 step goal by the end of the day. I’ve lost a bit of weight. My concentration is better on the treadmill, and I tedious tasks are less mind-numbing.
I’d say the only negative is that my deputy principal seems a bit worried. I think he doesn’t want to become a trend. I can’t imagine that it will. I would never have this set up in a classroom. It is only for us cubicle drones. My officemate tried to set him at ease by telling him that I was part of the electrical grid. He told him that my walking was powering the entire wing we are in. Something tells me he didn’t believe it.
Do you have a treadmill desk? I’d love to see your setup and hear about your experience.