Tag Archives: Software

Hesitant Teachers Can Learn New Tech

This is reposted from my article PLP Voices.

Many educators feel overwhelmed by new technology and may feel apprehensive when it comes to adopting it in the classroom. But I’m here to make the case that learning to use technology and employing it as part of your curriculum is actually easier than ever. Way easier.

Both hardware and software have never been more user friendly. Developers know that consumers want ease of use and have delivered in an unprecedented manner. Additionally, all producers are now compelled to provide free and easy how-to instructions – trust me, no more 1000-page manuals written in convoluted “tech speak” or a quick trip to the big box bookstore for the Dummies guide.

If you see a new project or idea that you want to bring to your own classroom that requires an unfamiliar software tool, do not hesitate to adopt it. With rare exceptions, you’ll find introductory videos at the producer’s website, tutorials by fellow educators at YouTube, and a community of users at the product’s Facebook or social-network page who are eager to help. If you’ve developed a Personal Learning Network using Twitter and other social media (and if you haven’t, now is a good time), you’ll have even more potential sources of support.

Here are just a few methods that I use to teach myself new tools as well as provide my own “technical support.”

Just Do it!

If I am interested in trying out a new (and most often free) tool in my classroom (Google DocsEvernoteiMovieDropbox, or more) then as Nike taught me, I “just do it!” I download the software and start exploring. Most people are surprised at how easy these tools are to use.

I set aside one hour of uninterrupted time where I simply sit down and play with the program or tool. I try out the features and get creative! No one else is watching. This is time for me to get familiar with the designers’ intentions, the user interface, and to brainstorm about its possibilities. I don’t have to worry about colleagues, students, or anyone else looking over my shoulder.

Yes, you can “just google it”

When I was first learning about digital stories and exploring how to employ them in my classroom, I sat down with iMovie and tried to make my own documentary. While using this software, I found that I had a series of questions. For example: “How do I add a transition?” or “How do I insert credits?”. How did I find my answers? I simply googled it. Google’s algorithms are so user friendly now that you can simply type in the question: “How do I add credits in iMovie?” and your browser displays a series of instructional documents and videos. If you have a question, “google it.” Googling is also a good way to search for examples of how other teachers using the same tool you’re exploring.

YouTube is Your Friend

YouTube isn’t just a place for silly cat and adorable dog videos. Amid the dreck there’s actually an amazing repository of knowledge, including lots of helpful clips posted by educators.

YT-Pinterest-how-toA quick YouTube search, using nothing more than the name of the tool or program you’re exploring, will turn up step-by-step instructions on how to troubleshoot common problems, use specialized features, and even more. (Videos with high numbers of views are a good place to start.)

I have a series of Ed Tech channels that I follow for my favorite webtools and programs, where I often learn about new and exciting features. I can honestly say that YouTube has become my go-to resource for any technology problem, question, or pursuit currently on my plate. It’s so easy to find what you need and the information is usually offered in an easy to follow format, with little to no technical jargon. If you find that’s not the case, try another video on the topic. There’s seldom just one.

Ask the students

As an educator, I often go through some internal struggle before I look to my students for answers to technology quesitons. After all, aren’t I supposed to be the font of knowledge? Then I get over it. They often know more than I do about available programs and features, and they also have the knack for figuring out the user interface quickly. I can tell you that they are never more excited than when they can show their classmates and me something new. Not only does it allow them to showcase their talents, but also it provides them key opportunities of leadership in the classroom. As a result, they become more confident and engaged in their academic environment.

Trust yourself

What I have learned over the years about employing technology in my classroom is that you have to stretch yourself, get over your fears, and trust your skills as an educator and your students as learners. The results I have gotten have far exceeded my expectations. The resources and tools now available for those who want to learn to use these tools is not only free, it’s readily accessible and easy to use.

So go in your room. Close the door. Boot up (or wake up your iPad). Guess what. You can’t break this stuff. And as your confidence and knowledge grows, you’ll be amazed at how much these tools can actually make your teaching more engaging, more fun and more effective.

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Google Goggles – “Facial Recognition” for Your Smart Phone

First, I’d like to credit Mind Shift for their informative “Educational Apps of the Month” posting this month. There are some real gems there and one that I want to highlight: Google Goggles. Google and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu California (one of my favorite museums of all time and listed in my article “Best Online & Interactive Museums“) have paired up to create this very cool identification app.

It plays off of the Face Recognition software that has become so famous with Facebook scandals. It is available for both iOS and Android devices. Click here to get the application (if you don’t already have it). You just take a photo of the artwork with your device (any art work) and it will then scan its library and pull up an information window.

It’s also not entirely reserved for Art Work. You can use Google Goggles to scan text, landmarks, wine labels, and more! I can’t wait to try this out! Remember, before you take photos in a museum confirm that it is permissible (and always turn off the flash!).

Great Mac Gems for the Classroom (or at Home I guess)…

I am an avid Mac user at home. Now, before the PC acolytes come after me I will make it known that I do know how to use a PC. In fact, I used a PC for about 16 years before switching over to a Mac my senior year of college. Sometimes, us Mac users have a bit of trouble finding good software – especially teachers. Here are some great gems (some good for the classroom – but others good for just organizing your life).

1Password ($39.95) – 1 Password has comprehensive apps for: Mac/Windows,iOS, and Android. By far the best password management solution. It stores all of your passwords for every website, organizes it into neat little lists, and provides ready recall. It also protects you from keyloggers and other malware as you don’t stroke in your password. This thing has single-handedly organized my ridiculous number of passwords. Also, it will store credit card information, user identities, frequent flyer numbers, etc. Never fill out another online form again. It works with all major browsers and you can even sync it to your iPhone/iPad/iPod and carry it will you everywhere you go!

Amazon Kindle Reader (FREE) – Read Kindle books on your Mac, Windows PC, Blackberry, Android, or iOS device.

AnyBizSoft PDA to Word converter ($39.95) – Convert those pesky and annoying PDF application forms into an editable version of Word or Excel. If you’ve ever had to print out a PDF, type/print, scan, and resend, this one will save you hours! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use.

Artrage Studio ($40) – So, you bought a tablet. You don’t know why you have one but you know you need it. Well, here’s why. Artrage Studio is a fun way to play with art on your computer – more than Paint less than Adobe. Very fun! There is also an iPad version.

Awaken ($10) – Use your Mac as an alarm clock – you can wake up to tracks, Podcasts, Audiobooks. You can set it to light up and raise volume slowly or blast you right out of bed. Set timers for everything.

Boxee (FREE) –  A single application to watch all of your internet tv in one place: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Network, etc. Keep an eye out for the Boxee Box (for running this application) for your television, coming out soon.

Delicious Library ($25) – Catalogue an organize your books, CDs, games, software, etc on your computer. It will find all of the details (author, summary, ratings, current value) via ISBN or UPC. Better yet, it will *scan* that ISBN number using your Mac’s iSight camera!

DropBox (FREE) – Sync your files across computers and portable devices – even across platforms! The first 2GB are free! If you decide you want a DropBox account, please let me know and I’ll email you an invite (you and I will get an additional 250MB of storage space). Many programs (like 1Password) will even use Dropbox to perform cloud syncing.

Evernote (FREE) – Works for Mac & Windows. Take notes on the go, on multiple computers, and in any format (written notes, photos, videos, web-clippings, etc). Evernote will organize the information, store it, and be readily available wherever you are! Sync it with the version for iPhone or Android and take your notes with you.

Google Earth (FREE) – If you haven’t heard of Google Earth or tried it, please do. It’s an amazing tool. If you’re an educator, it is an invaluable one!

Hulu Desktop (FREE) – If you use Hulu, try out the Hulu Desktop – it’s a neat little program that makes Hulu a bit easier to navigate. Still in beta format

KeyCue (€19.99 (Yes, that’s euro)) – Have a mac? Like using keyboard shortcuts? Download KeyCue. It’s amazing the number of shortcuts that exist that we don’t use.

Mental Case ($19.99) – Create flashcards on your Mac. There is an accompanying iOS device that lets you sync your work.

NOOKstudy (FREE) – Barnes & Noble’s eTextbook, eCourseContent software (supports Mac & Win). Still in development, but sign up to have input in the direction of EdTech

Papers ($79, Education Pricing Available) – For all of my academic buddies – this program is invaluable! Do you have numerous PDF files of journal articles, sitting in folders (or worse yet on your desktop)? This will catalogue and organize them. You can highlight and take notes. It is a life saver for those of us that use JSTOR! There is also an iOS version that will sync your work for you.

PDF Pen ($59.95) – One of the best PDF editors available. You can fill out forms and even sign them. Easy to create PDFs as well. I highly recommend if you deal with PDFs in any type of regularity.

PopChar (€29.99) – If you regular need special characters, accent marks, umlauts, whatever in you writing this will be a huge time saver for you!

ProfCast ($59.95, Education Pricing Available) – For Mac & Windows. Want to podcast your lectures? This is the way to do it. It’s quick and easy. You can easily produce enhanced podcasts with a very short learning curve. I can’t recommend this enough.

Things ($49.95) – The best To Do list Application that I have found. There is also an iPhone/iPad version and you can sync the two. If you need to organize your life, this will do it! A little pricy, but (in my opinion) worth it.

TimeLine 3D ($65, Education Pricing Available) – Create beautiful three-dimmensional time-lines that you can incorporate into your presentations or even catalogue your own records (i.e. timeline your Beatles songs!).
Of course, buying software gets pricy, so going via bundles is a great way to save cash!

MacUpdate Promo – daily deals on software and periodic bundles, a great way to save money on Mac Gems.

MacHeist Bundle – Bundle promos offered regularly (last one was $40, with nearly $900 worth of software)

Dealmac – Find the latest (and sometimes temporary) software deals as well as great deals on computers and peripherals.