Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Quiet Little Google Features

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Google because they offer so much good stuff ... for free! So they recently rolled out a new GUI for Google Docs, no big deal, I ignore things until I have need for them. So today I notice that there's a link for "Images and Videos", I take note and click away. Google Docs has separated my few image files from the document files. But the more interesting thing is I can select "Images and Videos", "Images", or ... "Videos". Are they taking a swing at YouTube or are they just trying to become the Internet's archivist? You decide.

I can't rave enough about Gmail's Multiple Inboxes feature: you Label your incoming mail, set up which labels or filters you want to go into specific inboxes and they show up! I set up an account to use for students who don't have e-mail addresses ( then I add "+StudentName" to differentiate each student), but I have that account auto-forward to so I'm not checking multiple accounts hourly. But the kicker is I have all those e-mails filtering and archiving to one of my Multiple Inboxes so I don't have to sift through my 1000's of messages, THEY'RE RIGHT THERE!

Then there's the Google Science Fair. Who's done that before?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Students don't have an e-mail account? Here's your solution...and other Gmail hacks

Problem: Web 2.0 tools need an e-mail address, no two ways about it, for security reasons and for password reset functions.

Problem: some of the most popular free e-mail sites do not allow people with birth years in a certain range to create accounts for certain services (ex. Google Accounts work for Gmail with parent credit card, but not at all for Blogger).

Problem: teachers encouraging students to be dishonest with registration is just morally wrong (trust me, I already went through that angst immediately after teaching Cyber Citizenship and came to that conclusion for you :).

Solution: teachers use Gmail+ to create student accounts! (courtesy of the EduBlogger)

The way it works
teacher has or creates a Gmail account.
I recommend setting up a separate account from your regular e-mail so any student spam does not interfere with your regular messages.
And Gmail is even cooler because you can add dots to your account name
teacher creates students accounts by adding a plus after their e-mail account but before the at (@)


or any combination of dots (.) and pluses (+) thereof which allows you to distinguish which service messages are coming from

That's all there is to this relatively recent and incredibly bothersome problem! I mean, I scratched my head for days and sent many protest e-mails when I couldn't find a solution, but over the break I ran across a number of resources, one of which was this Edublogs lesson on this issue and a major issue is solved.

My original solution involved petitioning and campaigning and demonstrating to get my district's tech people to quickly implement Google's FREE Apps for Schools to get student e-mail accounts, but that probably wouldn't have worked :)...ok, definitely would not have worked. Ok, I'm still going to do all of the above because I need my students to have Google Docs, but this workaround is a short term solution. And now I'm rambling so on to the next one!

Another tip comes from this article:  you actually receive accounts on 2 domains with Gmail: and, so using filters you can differentiate where mail is coming from. Having debugged and de-virused many student computers, I recommend you use this tips...with an account separate from yours.

To create e-mail accounts for your blood children (as opposed to your adopted-student-children) under your Gmail account, this article suggests adding the account+ to your Gmail settings... with the first hack, I'm not sure it's necessary, the only difference being if your child wants to "send" a message with their name instead of the parent's.

Lastly, I label e-mails and sort files using numbers (ex. 0-really important stuff, 9-stuff to do when I'm bored out of my mind, in-between-numbers: prioritized stuff), but I like this suggestion to use slashes like a file system and other symbols to organize your Gmail Inbox.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Spring 2011 Curriculum Ideas

I'm thinking about what I'd like to teach my students before June (t minus 3 months) and I have so many ideas! Problem is there's so little time...basically 4 months and some weeks before the end of May, which is when the best teachers cease teaching and begin planning for the end of the year. I mean, going beyond May is torturous for your students with all the sunshine and graduation planning!

Anyway, I've decided to ask students what they want to learn and prepare a few lessons so they can choose or rotate. Here are some topics I've come up with [will add more as students suggest or as inspiration hits]
  • HTML & Web Design (web design, programming, art, communication)
  • Designing and Building a [miniature] House using reused and recycled materials (architecture, engineering, design, electrical circuitry, interior decor, ecology)
  • Podcasting Spring events (engineering, communications, design, recording, writing)
  • Art with Digital Tools (visual arts, history, communication)
  • Game Design (game design, computer programming)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back in School: Resources for the tech teacher

I am taking a credential class, Instructional Strategies for the Adult and Adolescent Learner, and have the great honor of being a student of the NASA - Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project, so I will be a busy bee! Though each class has just met for the first time in the last 48 hours, I already have useful resources:

Benchmarks & Standards
When was the last time you took a refresher course or participated in professional development? There are so many programs and opportunities available, especially with the abysmal ratings U.S. students have received:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cartoons in the Classroom!

Found a wonder blog that features lots of lovely tools for technology in education. Not sure how I happened upon Creating Comics Online, but I'm glad I did: cartooning makes teaching storyboard design relevant, and the online tools are much easier than demonstrating my stick figure storyboards and having students draw on sheets of paper.

He ends the article with 20 Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom and More than 100 Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans which makes cartooning immediately relevant to the classroom.

My students have been introduced to Scratch via e-cards, our next move is to write short stories and animate them using Scratch. After that we'll move to programming in Alice. I think comic strips are a great interim step before getting into 2D and 3D animation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Agrarian Fascination in games

What's with all the apps and games focusing in farming? This point hit home for me when attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and one of the meet-and-greet questions was whether you checked your farm before the event! At the time I had 3 farms to check so that was a box I signed for others! How can we harness this obsession in academics and computing? Planning for periods of inaccessibility (logic), most profit generated in a given period (math, estimation), artistic nature of crop placement (crop circles), and of course agricultural and geography knowledge of crops. Maybe I'll host an extra credit challenge :)  I envision a class contest with the most decorative, the most profit generating, the most green, etc.

started the trend on Facebook, people were already spending hours catching up with friends, then they spent hours maintaining their farms

iPhone app

Apple's farming contribution, which is just as engaging (if you're profit minded) but had the audacity to download an auxiliary app (Game Center) to add the social networking piece.

The theme extends to cafes, bakeries, restaurants, shopping...anything that translates to buying and selling commodities.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beginning Programming

School is very different: I once worked with a man (not in an educational setting) who lamented the fact that schools don't teach what they did in the 1950's, which directly contributed to students and scientists' abilities to create the computer revolution: counting in bases other than 10, logic, games. Unfortunately our students are not receiving this same knowledge so before students can program we need to give them logic skills. The following are some activities that give pre-programming logic skills.