Category Archives: Technology

New Google Classroom Tools Feature Differentiated Learning

hero_logoGoogle just announced several key new features for Google Classroom that allow teachers to differentiate work for their students. Teachers can now assign work to students or groups of students.

With this feature, students can also discreetly receive extra practice if they’re struggling with a new subject.

They have also announced new notification methods for when students submit work late or resubmit. Check out the latest updates on Google’s blog here.

Google Arts & Culture for Android & iOS

google-arts-cultureI have long been a fan of Google Arts & Culture (previously Google Art Project). It allows individuals to explore museums, exhibits, and historical topics around the world. For example, you can tour the works of Vincent Vangogh, explore Ancient Kyoto, or wander around the Lincoln Home (to name a few).

Previously, the robust features of Google Arts & Culture was reserved for computers. Now, however, you can download the free pap for your iOS or Android device. This is a great way to let students explore the different tools and features available via Google Arts & Culture on your classroom tablets or even on student smartphones!

How to be Digitally Literate in an Era of Fake News

Courtesy of PEW Research

Courtesy of PEW Research

America just completed an especially volatile and polarizing Presidential election. This was the first major election where both sides waged war not simply using traditional means (pounding the pavement, call centers, and mailers), but using online digital tools. On Facebook and Twitter, stories were shared, hashtags were created, and mud-slinging took on new levels. New research from PEW suggests that most American adults now consume news via Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit being the most popular). Television news (both local and national) is still the most prominent source of news, but it is quickly giving way to the internet of things.

This in and of itself is not inherently bad. I have given up my print subscription to various news and magazines sites in favor of their digital platforms. This fits with my desire to have the most up to date news, travel-friendly options, and to keep a lower eco footprint. However, what has sprung up and been the topic of much debate is the prevalence of fake news, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook.

The Guardian and Buzzfeed News have both posted investigative articles highlighting the proliferation of fake news websites and stories targeting America’s vitriolic Presidential election. The motives are less about changing political minds and more about cashing in on the election’s most passionate members. Clickbait headlines titled: “Hilary in 2013: I would like to see people like Donald Trump run for office; They’re honest and can’t be bought!” or “Mike Pence says Michelle Obama is the most vulgar first lady we’ve ever had!” These are fairly mild titles, others claim to reveal sex tapes of candidates (or their spouses), calls for a race war, or endorsements from the Pope.

These news sites set up pages on Facebook and encourage their users to share, share, share! The more shares and clicks, the more revenue these sites see from tools such as Google’s adsense. While Facebook, Google, and other organizations are working on ways to combat fake news, the process will be slow and users should not rely on these media to serve as filters for them. Instead, educators should focus even more on teaching themselves and their students to be more digitally literate and savvy. There are a few tools that are in your arsenal to use right away.

Is the Story & Headline Over the Top?

No matter how much you dislike (or even despise) your political opponent, you should immediately be suspicious of a headline that reeks of sensationalism. Claims that an arrest is pending, signs of devil worship, calls for genocide, or other topics that just sound outrageous, go into the story with a cautious attitude.

Is the Story from a Legitimate News Source?

If you are reading a shared story, be sure to check the source. In this day of news clamoring for clicks and ratings, it’s not unusual for them to use sensational headlines to get readers. However, check for the author and publisher. Established news sources (The New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, your local paper, etc) have systems in place to confirm sources and vet information. If you have never heard of the news organization publishing the article or they do not have an author listed, be suspicious.

Read the Article

This may seem a little obvious, but a lot of people share headlines rather than stories. Read the story yourself and see if it matches the headline. I recently read a story

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

entitled “President of Mexico contacts President-Elect Trump to Discuss Details of the Wall.” However, when you read the story, it simply said that the President of Mexico had contacted President-elect Trump to congratulate him on his win (a common practice by all foreign governments). Reading an article may also make it clear that the news information is suspect. If it contains a lot of typos and grammatical errors, that is a red flag. Legitimate news sources proofread and edit all articles prior to publication. While a typo or two make sneak through, it’s a rarity.

Check the Source Information

If the article claims that Wikileaks, public statements, tax documents, or other information “reveals” information, they should be linking or providing copies of that information. I have seen New York Times articles on the Clinton email scandal directly link back to the Wikileaks information dump. If the article contains no evidence or sources to back it up, assume the information is false.

Look for other Verifying Sources

While one news source may trump another on a story, they all will get to it eventually. If you read a story, confirm it with another source. If you see a sensational topic being covered by one outlet only, the information is suspect. The issue of media-bias is often cited as the reason one news outlet covers a story. However, there are numerous left and right leaning legitimate news organizations. No single outlet is the purveyor of the truth. Follow the journalistic mandate of “at least two independent, reliable sources.”

Perhaps the best way to avoid getting tricked by false news stories on social media is to keep yourself well informed by reading, watching, and listening to a variety of news outlets. The more informed you are of the current trends and cycles in the news, the more likely you are to immediately smell out a false story.

 

 

Effective Ways for Educators to Use Twitter

I am a big fan of using Twitter to share, collaborate, and learn. This infographic highlights many ways that educators can use Twitter in their practice.

infographic26 Effective Ways to use Twitter for Teachers and Educators Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Find Anything in you Google Drive

If you are anything like me, your Google Drive is a bit of a mess. No matter how much I try to keep it organized, documents and files find their way outside of my carefully crafted and structured filing system. This isn’t just an issue for my Google Drive account. I have this problem in general.

search-windowWell, the benefit of using Google Drive for your file storage is that you get to use Google’s Search features within you Drive. If you type a key term (like the document title) in the Google Drive Search Bar, it will pull up all files with that title and it will also search within the document for key terms. If you would like to narrow your search further, you can edit features such as: owner (to find that file shared with you by someone else), shared with (to find that document you’re collaborating on), file-type, dated modified, and more.

So, even if you’re terrible at organization (like I am), you can always find the file that you’re looking for!

KidzType: Free & Fun Online Typing Tutorial

This post is sponsored by KidzType

Even as technology has become ubiquitous in schools, keyboarding classes are quickly disappearing. As a result, parents, students, and teachers are often looking for resources to help students learn touch typing. KidzType is a free online resource to help kids learn how to type using different types of activities and games.

Typing Lessons

Students are presented a variety of typing lessons to help familiarize them with the fundamentals of keyboarding. These are organized into groups that gradually increase in complexity. For example, the first series of lessons focus on learning the home-row of keys. Students then move on to upper and lower rows. Students gradually work through each of the groups of lessons as they master the entire keyboard. During the lesson, students are shown a series of keystrokes on a screen and are prompted to enter the directed keys without looking down at the keyboard. While they do this, the program measures accuracy and speed.

Typing Practice

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-36-49-pmStudents can practice current and past lessons using a series of typing practices. Similar to the typing lessons, students are prompted to enter a series of keystrokes that are displayed on the screen. The program then records their speed and error rates. Practices are more complex than lessons; they combine previous exercises and become more complicated. Higher level practice exercises include typing paragraphs and incorporating various key rows, numbers, and special characters.

Typing Games

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-44-22-pmKidzType isn’t a standard typing tutor; it uses a variety of Typing Games to keep students engaged with the material. For example, the Typeroids Home Mission is an alien shooting game. By typing the designated letters or words, students shoot the alien invaders to ward off the invasion. There are several other games that students can play to help them hone and build their typing skills.

Whatever your student’s skill level or aspirations, KidzType is great way for them to become skilled, touch typists.

Using Social Media in Natural Disaster

I just finished preparing my home (as best as I can) for Hurricane Matthew. Now, I hunker down, watch, and hope that it gives us a wide pass. Social Media now plays an important role in our lifestyles and that includes emergencies. Here are a few ways to employ it:

Keep People Updated

Hurricane_Frances_2004.jpgUse Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn) to share status and safety with friends and family. Many of us have a lot of friends and families all over the country (or world). It can be a challenge to field messages from them when preparing for, during, or cleaning up after an emergency. A Facebook post (or using Facebook’s Safety Check) can let everyone know that you are okay, any change of location if you evacuated or had to seek alternative housing, and requests for help.

Stay Updated

Federal, State, and Local Governments, as well as Emergency Agencies, will update their Social Media accounts regularly. Be sure to follow (or at least check) the Twitter accounts of your local Government, your City’s Emergency Management, Government Officials, School Districts, and more. A few National Organizations you may want to watch specifically: FEMA, the Red Cross, and NOAA.

Communicate

Landlines are still your first line of defense in an emergency (cell towers will come down first and landlines aren’t reliant on power). However, even with a landline you may get busy circuits. If you have a cell signal or can find an internet connection, Social Media communicators are your friend! Using tools like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, or other Direct Message tools can help you to keep in touch.

I hope that you find these tools useful for your next emergency! Stay safe out there!