Tag Archives: Android

A Solution to the Cross Platform Classroom

This is reblogged from my post on Edudemic.

The modern classroom is a messy one! Schools are entering the world of technology at different speeds and levels; some institutions have invested in full 1:1 programs where the school selects a single device (such as iPads or Chromebooks); others have instituted Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) initiatives, some specify a single device while others permit a broader selection; and most of us operate in some type of hybrid environment where students have access to a device at school, such as a tool issued to them, a computer lab, and/or laptop cart and/or a device they have access to at home or even bring with them. As technology becomes more ubiquitous both at home and in the classroom, we find ourselves in a more blended world. As educators in the 21st century, we must be prepared to tackle education in an environment that is cross-platform and multi-device.

Working in an unpredictable environment is especially challenging. As educators, we want to provide the most effective and innovative learning environment possible for our students. At the same time, it can be challenging to initiate a sophisticated, 21st century project with an eye to address the individual technology set-up of hundreds of students.

Over the years of working in blended environments, I have found some solutions that allow me to assign sophisticated, robust projects without making me – or my students – go crazy in the process!

mobile-devices

Focus on the End Product Not the Tool

When I work with faculty, they are often concerned that they must teach students how to use programs or apps. I address this very concern in my article, “How to Infuse Digital Literacy Throughout your Curriculum” emphasize that it’s not the tool, but rather the product. Just as we don’t require students to use Microsoft Word or Text Editor when we assign them an essay, it’s not necessary to designate and then teach them new software for a digital project. For example, if you want your students to create a video, and you work in a blended environment, allow for some software flexibility. You do not need to require that they use iMovie or Movie Maker and then teach it to them. Rather, allow them to use whatever tools works best for them. There are a myriad of Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS compatible programs available. They are intuitive and thus easy to learn and use. Providing this flexibility not only permits students to work with software that will run on their device, but it allows them to operate within their own comfort zone.

Twice a year, I ask my students to create a history documentary. At Ransom Everglades, we are not BYOD or 1:1. Therefore, my students have various access to computing tools. You will note that I do not assign a particular type of computer or software. What they use to create is up to them. However, I make very clear my expectations with concise instructions and a rubric. The instructions I give them focus on research, content, and construction, similar to what I would hand out if I were assigning a research essay or class presentation.

When you Need to Use a Specific Tool, make it cross-platform compatible

Sometimes using just one tool is easier and more cost-effective. When you select software for a project, choose one that is cross-platform compatible. In our hybrid world, many tools now work on Windows and Mac, as well as many mobile computing platforms such as Android or iOS. Cloud tools, especially those that operate via a web browser, are especially useful. For example, my favorite cross-platform word processing suite is Google Drive. I don’t have to worry about a student sending me a document that I can’t open, and they always have the ability to work on their projects regardless of the machine they are using. Additionally, by using Google Drive they can collaborate with their peers, even completing a paperless research essay. If you know you need to use a single tool, do your research – pick one that will work for most if not all devices!

Teach Your Students to be Problem Solvers!

Don’t think that you must suddenly become an expert on every single device and piece of software. That is impossible even for the most skilled IT professional. Instead, encourage your students to become their own help desk – searching out their solutions and assisting one another. This teaches them one of the most important skills that they can learn: creative problem solving. At the beginning of the year, students quickly learn that when they visit my office hours or email me a question, I will ask them:

  • Have you Googled the problem?
  • Have you looked on YouTube?
  • Did you ask your friends?
  • Have you searched the help section of the software?

I have learned that when I encourage them to figure things out and solve their own technical problems or help their classmates, they quickly become empowered. I find that even on individual projects, students build camaraderie and leadership skills through collaboratively working on assignments and teaching one another new things.

Be Creative, Flexible, and Available

Overall, the best advice that I can give when working in a hybrid computing environment is to be flexible – expect that things will go wrong and be ready to find work-arounds. Someone’s computer will crash, or they will misunderstand an instruction (or worse yet not read the instructions!), or some random error message that makes no sense will pop up on the screen. That is okay! Take a deep breath, do some basic troubleshooting, and come up with alternative solutions. In fact, this is a great way to model your expectations in a tech-rich classroom!

Additionally, encourage your students to communicate with you – let them know when you are available and how best to reach you; I tend to hold digital office hours via Google Hangout during projects. This will help you to direct them when they have a question and encourage them to be open and communicative with you throughout the process.

The world we live in is no longer single device and neither are our classrooms. However, as educators we can build robust and creative curriculum within these non-uniform environments and in doing so teach our students how to think critically and creatively.

To learn more about cross platform classrooms and unleashing students creativity in a BYOD environment, come join the conversation at the July 28-30 EdTechTeacher Summit in Chicago.

 

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Free Webinar on Getting Started with Mobile Devices!

week2_getting_going1

Tonight, Conected Learning is hosting a free one hour webinar at 4:00pm PST (7:00 EST) on how to get going with mobile devices. It will address organization, workflow, and other key fundamentals of employing devices in your classroom. If you are an educator in a 1:1, shared, or cart environment (with iPads or other tablet devices) this is a great opportunity to learn from the experts.

Your hosts are Don Orth, the Director of Technology at the Hilbrook School, Holly Clark, technology specialist, Beth Holland, technology specialist with EdTechTeacher, and Shawn McCusker, Social Studies teacher and technology specialist.

Google Launches “Views” for Users to Share Panoramic Photos

Google just announced Views, a community that allows its users to share their panoramic photos via their Android device (sorry iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry users; it’s proprietary). This program has been incorporated into the new Google Maps program.

To learn more about the Views launch and its impact on the Google Maps community, see the official blog post by Google: “Introducing ‘Views’ – a new way to Contribute your 360° photo spheres to Google Maps.”

A photo sphere in the new Google Views, courtesy of Google Images

A photo sphere in the new Google Views, courtesy of Google Images

10 Best Apple and Android Apps for Education 2013

appsbestresizedeSchoolNews has listed its top 10 educational apps for Apple and Android devices for 2013. The applications range across K-University, free to paid, Humanities to Math & Science. It’s a comprehensive list of useful apps to play with this summer! Check out this year’s list here. You can see the list from 2012 here.

Teaching With SmartPhones

This has been reblogged from my post at PLP Voices of the Learning Revolution.

Teaching with SmartPhones

Posted by  on Nov 21, 2012 in The How of 21st Century TeachingVoicesWeb Tools That Deepen Learning0 comments

If you ask educators about cellphones in their classrooms, they will all have a passionate response and a story (good or bad) about their presence.

Most will express frustration at their problematic nature: they’re a distraction; they make noise; they can be used for cyber-bullying or cheating. That said, I think that more and more educators are recognizing that cellphones, and especially smartphones,can be a useful learning tool. But how do teachers make that happen?

As an early adopter of smartphone technology, I immediately recognized the incredible computing power they possess. Many students now have pocket technology that’s much more powerful and innovative than the equipment used in early manned space flights.

Still, like my colleagues, I imagined cellphones as a huge classroom management struggle.

So I set out to test a theory, with this basic premise: If teachers actually direct how students will use their cellphones in class as learning tools, we can minimize their role as a distractive presence.

I am the first to acknowledge that my teaching situation is not the same as many other educators. I teach in a small, independent school. My students generally come from a financially stable background and I teach fairly small classes (15-22). All of my students have some type of smartphone device. I understand this is not the case for all teachers. But most classrooms will include some students who have internet-capable devices, and many of the activities I will discuss here can be done in groups with just one device per group.

Supporting lessons & activities

A good rule of thumb for any classroom use of cellphones: the lesson/activity must be engaging as well as productive. You don’t want technology for the sake of technology (and students aren’t going to be intrinsically fascinated with a device they use routinely when they’re outside of school). If the students don’t enjoy what they’re doing, they will be more tempted to use their phones inappropriately.

In Class Polling/Quizzing – One of my favorite tools to use in class is a program called Poll Everywhere. I wrote about this service in an article at my personal blog: “Poll Everywhere – A Free/Cheap Alternative to Polling Hardware.”

This is a great piece of software to use in the classroom (and it’s free for audiences up to 40). You can create quiz questions for which students text in their answers.  No expensive clicker systems to buy, set up, and maintain! If students register their cellphone numbers (a requirement in my class) you can even track their answers for impromptu quizzes or review!

In-class Backchanneling: Backchanneling refers to the use of networks & social media to maintain an online, real-time conversation alongside spoken remarks.

For example, if you attend a keynote presentation at a conference these days, you’ll often find that some listeners in the audience are using their mobile devices to comment to other audience members about things the speaker is saying, while the speaker is saying them.

Backchanneling  can be a great way to give quiet students a voice, to introduce additional facts and insights during a lesson, or simply to encourage “conversation” during lecture or group readings when you don’t want to actually interrupt the presentation.

While Twitter is probably the most popular medium for backchanneling news and entertainment events (using #hashtags to create an instant network), teachers will probably want a more controllable platform than Twitter provides.
Educators can readily set up a private backchannel using free webtools. One popular program is Today’s Meet, which allows individuals to create temporary rooms to host backchannel discussions.

Poll Everywhere can also be used for this purpose. Plus, it allows you to moderate comments and prohibits any anonymous contributions.

In-class Readings & Handouts: Smartphones can also be used productively in the classroom as eReaders for books and handouts. I place all student handouts into DropBox folders (see my previous Voices article: “DropBox – a Superb Classroom Tool”). If we are reading or doing work in class, they can access our Dropbox space via the internet and open reference material without printing it up or asking for a new copy. It’s literally right in the palm of their hand.

Of course, for traditional reading materials (textbooks and paperbacks), you can use mobile apps like Kindle eReaderNook AppiBooks, or Google’s Play Books (just to name a few). Many of them host free content and some allow you to load content of your own. This is a great way to save money on book purchases and photocopies. Using these apps, students can even highlight and annotate.

Doing research

One of the greatest active uses I have found for smartphones is in the area of research. I remember the days when I made photocopies, took meticulous notes, and tried to employ a series of notecards in a vain attempt at some semblance of a coherent organized system. Smartphones do a much better job. In this case, the power is in the apps!

My favorite research tools on the smartphone are “camera scanners” (which capture information using the phone’s built-in camera). One of the best apps I have found is a program called Genius Scan+  – available for iOS, Android, and Windows based phones. This app allows you to take pictures of documents (even books with those bendy pages), crop them, and then enhance them for ready viewing. You can create notebooks of documents (if you are copying sections of a book or article) and then store them on the device or export them (as a photo image or PDF) toGoogle DocsDropBoxEvernote, and more. It’s a great tool for you or your students to organize research materials.

Evernote is another great application that students can use to organize their notes and images, take voice notes, write notes by hand, gather web clippings, sort emails, and more. You can put them into pre-categorized folders (class, project, theme, etc) as well as give them “tags” which makes them easy to search and sort later.

Google Search on the Go!

Most people can grasp the power of having Google in their pocket, but few recognize that the mobile version of Google is much more than a web browser. The Google Search App can be used not only for traditional searches, but has a voice search feature as well. You talk — it searches.

My favorite feature of the Google Search is its ability to perform searches using images! This feature, called Google Goggles, is a creative way to search the internet for image based content (watch the video). I employed it last year in a creative field trip experiment at the local museum.

These mobile Google capabilities offer a great way for students to explore material on the fly, using a variety of media. Any content, images, etc. that they find can be sent to a Google Drive account.

Stepping out with smartphones

I hope these ideas will be enough to stir the interest of fellow educators and encourage you to begin experiments of your own. And if you’re already using smartphones in your classroom and you’re doing something you don’t see here, please share in the comments!

When we combine the modern smartphone with wireless internet access and the remarkable number of cheap and free mobile apps now available, we find that they are truly amazing pocket-sized learning devices. Whether educators like them or hate them, the reality is that cellphones are going to become pervasive in our classrooms, if they aren’t already.

We can choose to be proactive — to employ and direct the use of these powerful tools — or we can continue to exert our energy in combating them.

If we are truly preparing our students for the future, then I believe it is our obligation to incorporate these ever-present devices into our daily teaching practice.

Image of smartphone: BigStock

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About the author

I teach at Trinity Valley School in Ft. Worth, Texas. I’m a student of the human condition: history, philosophy, art, and culture. I am a passionate educator. I am a lover of new technologies and their ability to share knowledge. I blog at Indiana Jenand you can find me on Twitter @teacherjencarey Meet the rest of our Voices.

Update – Conference Talk: From Enemy to Asset, Cell Phones in the Classroom

Today, I gave my talk “Cell Phones in the Classroom: From Enemy to Asset,” (see my previous post on preparing for it) for the Independent Curriculum Group at the beautiful campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, TX. Here was the published summary of my talk:

From Enemy to Asset: Cell Phones in the Classroom
Cell phones have replaced note-passing as the biggest distraction in the classroom. Schools have tried to attack the problem with blanket bans or restrictive policies. But what if instead of viewing cell phones as the enemy, we use them as teaching tools? Most students have more computing power in their pocket than was used by NASA to send men to the moon. This session will explore innovative classroom uses for cell phones.

I was quite nervous about this talk – my colleagues were entirely strangers, I was in a new environment, talking about a ‘controversial’ topic and at the last minute I found out two horrifying facts: that the session would be 75 minutes (I had anticipated 50-60) and that I would be presenting first! The night before, I spent a lot of time tossing and turning as well as frantically changing my content.

The day began and my room ended up being packed – we were dragging in extra chairs and for a time, it was standing room only. Seems like this was a topic that hit home for a lot of faculty – after all, cell phones are pervasive.

Turns out, I had a great audience. They were incredibly talkative and engaging. They asked pertinent questions, brought up legitimate concerns, and shared constructively. In fact, my problem wasn’t that I couldn’t fill up the time, I just didn’t have enough!

We spent most of our time playing with Poll Everywhere. I’ve posted previously about my very positive experiences with the software in previous blog posts. They liked its ease of use, the broad application, and moderator features. In fact, we spent probably 70% of the time talking about this particular piece. Here’s an example of one of our ‘back-channel’ chats

We next moved on to DropBox (if any conference attendees are reading this, remember this is the link that will get you 250mb of bonus space!) – I was surprised by the number of teachers that were unfamiliar with this program, but they all became excited quite quickly at its cross-platform capabilities, file storage and transfer, as well as means of distributing materials to students who now seem loathe to check their own emails (my students often ask me to text them when I email something important). I highlight DropBox in my post about using your Smart Phone to go paperless (or less paper-y).

By the time I finished both of these products, we had only a few minutes left. I showed them a few examples of other products, namely Scanner Applications (like Genius Scan Pro) that students can use in their process of research (and help organize with DropBox or Evernote).

A few of the conference goers stayed after ‘the bell’ to ask me about some of the creative suites (that I used for digital storytelling projects, which you can read about here). I also put out a stack of business cards that were collected up – hopefully to contact me in the future, but possibly to ensure they got the spelling right on their complaints.

I didn’t get a chance to distribute my handout (not sure what happened to my copies). But you can download a copy of it here: Austin Presentation (it includes all of the software I went over, or planned to go over, in the talk).

TVS Tech Kids Day 1 & Prep for Day 2

So Day one of the Tech Course had its ups and downs. We had some problems connecting to the internet but were ultimately able to get them all online. I then focused on introducing them to MindMeister, where we created our “Class Rules” and then shared ideas on how to use technology in education. Some of the kids took to the material faster than others – those with their own laptops were the fastest adopters (probably because they were comfortable with the platform). Most of the time the kids used to set up their accounts (most hadn’t done so the night before).

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to introduce them to Diigo and Evernote. I think that Diigo will be easier for an immediate introduction. They have a short instructional video on their website.

I’ve also created a Mind Map that I want them to play with:

I’m hoping that they will add to it as they explore the material.

I found a great Prezi, “Save, Share, & Teach with Diigo” by @locotech. It’s a great introduction to educators about what Diigo can do, but leaves out the new “Read it Later” feature that allows you to download and read your links off line.

For Diigo tomorrow, I am going to give them a step-by-step process along with a small project. After I introduce them to the software and we watch the Diigo video, I’ll give them the following instruction set:

  1. Log on to your Diigo Account
  2. Click on “My Groups” to confirm you’re a member of the Group “TVS Tech Kids” (if not, ask Mrs. Lockett to send you an invite).
  3. Click on the “Tools” link at the top of the page and then click on the “Diigolet” link – follow the instructions for installation.
  4. If you have a portable iOS or Android device, download and install the Diigo app (free).
  5. Launch your Diigolet and sign in to activate it.

We are, as a class, going to do a brief research project on the life of Davy Crockett – I was inspired today upon seeing his quote: “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

  1. On the topic of Davy Crockett, using web resources, research the history of this man.
  2. Make sure that the diigolet is active – bookmark at least three pages (make sure to include a description, appropriate tags, and share to our TVS Tech Kids Group).
  3. On your (minimum three) bookmarked pages make sure that you use the highlighting tool and attach at least one sticky-note (you can add more if you like).
  4. If you you have a mobile device, play with the ‘read it later’ feature (read about how to use this feature on Diigo’s web page).

I will then have them, using this particular content, practice highlighting, annotating, tagging, and then sharing the information that they find. This activity will be limited to fifteen minutes (as it is only an exercise and not a hand-in project). I then want them to have five minutes of reflection (using Mind Meister).

Our next topic will be Evernote. Evernote and Diigo are similar, so they lend well to combining. However, Evernote is a bit more expansive. If you’re interested in what Evernote is all about, here’s a great short YouTube video:

A great step-by-step guide is also provided by Evernote here.

I’ve also created a Mind Map here to help guide discussion and thought:

Similar to my plan for Diigo, this will be a project-based learning element. The initial steps will be:

  1. Go to Evernote.com
  2. Click on the link “downloads” and install the appropriate program for your platform. If you have not yet, install Evernote on your iOS and/or Android Device.
  3. Launch Evernote on your computer (if you are unable to download the program onto your computer, then simply sign-in from the web page).
  4. Create a “New Notebook” and entitle it “Davy Crockett”
  5. As before, do a little research on Davy Crockett – make at least one web bookmark, one voice note, one video note (if your computer has video capability). Be sure to add the appropriate tags to your information and include a note to yourself!
  6. Try to get a little more advanced (if you have time) – do a selective screen shot instead of a full screen shot, explore the new ‘stacks’ feature, etc.
  7. If you have another device (e.g. iPhone) Open the evernote app and check out the synced data – make an on-the-go note (voice note, video, picture, etc).
  8. If you have time, go to the Evernote “trunk” and see what other features are available.

Again here, I will limit the actual activity time to 15 minutes with a 5 minute reflection (or at least, this is the plan – we’ll see what actually happens in class).

So, this is the plan and my thoughts on tomorrow. Thoughts? Ideas? Pleas share. I’m happy to take them and make them my own – and by ‘make them my own’ I mean put my name on them and claim that they’re my ideas.