7 Months Later – The One Computer Classroom

Most of my job for the Center at Rutgers is sustained professional development. I truly believe in this model as you can only learn so much in four hours or a day. You have to have time to think about it and implement it. Participants have to feel comfortable and willing to ask questions and try activities again.

One of the districts I began working with this year has decided to begin integrating technology into the curriculum by purchasing tablet PCs and projectors for their middle and high school math and science teachers. This is the first phase of a multi-year initiative that they have planned that slowly upgrades their level of technology literacy.

The HS teachers entered their comments in a public Google spreadsheet.

This first cohort of teachers are thrilled to have a laptop/tablet to use. It’s the first piece of hardware they’ve had in years that they can rely on for productivity, classroom presentation and small group activities. We were allotted pretty much a meeting a month. Well, not even. We met five times over the last seven months and communicated via a Ning I set up for all the teachers enrolled in the program.

When we gathered for our final session, the teachers spoke of how thrilled the students were about using the tablet. It’s still novel, even in April. Students don’t have access to tablets in all classes as they’re being rolled out over a couple of years, so they look forward to using it when they can.

Students also look forward to being engaged by the types of technologies and activities that we have reviewed and  implemented this past seven months:

Each session, we also reviewed specific content-related resources in biology, physics, chemistry, environmental science, math analysis, algebra, calculus and geometry.

The biology teacher, Steven Klass, even went as far as to create a private education (social) network for his students using Edmodo. He had requested some information early on in the year about how to create one safely and effectively and we had discussed some benefits of encouraging students to communicate about classroom content online. Using Edmodo, Mr. Klass up his AP Biology students to talk about content online. He also posted resources from class and it turns out, so did they. He was pleasantly surprised when, after a few weeks in Edmodo, students from his class started posting links to biology videos and articles for their classmates to read. He even wound up inviting a few students from another section in so that they could also benefit from the information.

I noted as we were scanning the chat that there was one student who was very vocal in the logs. I asked Mr. Klass if this happened to be a student who participated a lot in his physical class, and no surprise to many of you reading this post, this was a typically quiet student. It was a pleasure to listen as the teachers in the room spoke of how he participate online versus in the room and how the wheels churned a bit as to how this might benefit some of their students as well. Next year, Mr. Klass plans on opening the social network to the rest of his science students.

So, it’s been all positive in my post up till now. I try to be open and honest and this time is no different than others. One teacher admitted that he just could not use technology as a resource for students to submit assignments. He was not having success with it this year. He would, however, set the expectation from the beginning next year with the families, and give it a try again in the fall.

Another teacher admitted that the technology does keep the students engaged, but she was unwilling to share the tablet with them, so the students really weren’t benefiting from hands-on time. Yet, she’s in the chart above transforming from verbal lecture only to sideshows with hyperlinks and videos. There is progress and the hope for more next year.

Are you in a school where the technology is not in the hands of the students? How do you go about getting it to them? Is it through homework or class time or some other way? Please share your experiences or suggestions.

What MY Droid Does – Part 6

QR Code for this post

One of the fantastic features of the Android phones is the ability to scan QR Codes. So, what’s a QR Code, you ask? My way of explaining it is that a QR Code is a symbol that stores a URL. When your camera phone scans it using a barcode scanner (link), it automatically launches its browser and goes to that web page. This is really convenient when shopping, viewing a website (this is the QR Code for this post is to the left), or even Geocaching.

You can make your own QR Codes easily. SO EASILY.

1. Copy and paste the following URL into your browser (don’t hit ENTER yet…)
2. At the end of the URL (after the “=” sign), paste or type in the URL that you want your QR Code to link to – my QR Code linked to http://thumannresources.com/2010/04/22/what-my-droid-does-part-6/
3. Hit the ENTER button
4. Save the QR Code image to your hard drive (or some other location)
5. Once someone scans this QR Code, it will take them to your specified URL. (Go ahead. Try it. Scan my QR Code.)

For more information on QR Codes see:

Source: http://googlemobile.blogspot.com/

Then there’s the recent release of Google Earth for the Android phone. It works really well on my Droid. I will say, though, that I would only use it in an areawith 3G. Of course I wanted to see my house, so I went to the menu and selected my location and went to my house – and then pinched my fingers to zoom in. I then went back to the menu and clicked on the Search menu and used the voice feature to search for Disney Land. Once there I tapped the “Look Around” button and changed my view so that I could get a good look around. I also went back to the main menu and explored the different layers to see what types of information were available.

You can visit the Google Earth for your Mobile phone on the web at http://www.google.com/mobile/earth/ or directly on your phone at http://m.google.com/earth.

Oh, and here’s the QR Code for Google Earth in the Android Apps Market:

QR Code for Google Earth

Lastly, I’ve been using Seesmic on my Droid. I had been noticing that many were Tweeting from it, so I thought I would give it a try. The mobile version of Seesmic seems to be a full featured application. It has:

  • Easy access to Twitter Lists that I’ve created and that follow me
  • A tutorial built right into the application
  • You can manage your profile from within the app
  • Varied selection of external services (photos, URL shorteners, video hosts)
  • Options for notifications

Here’s the QR Code for Seesmic in the Android Apps Market:

QR Code for Seesmic

YouTube Has No Educational Value? Phooey!

My first-grader came home from school yesterday and said she had homework from music class. She knows I love the Black Eyed Peas and I think she just wanted to show me something she’d seen in school. (She has no concept of how happy this makes me.)

Please share this post/video with those that think YouTube should be blocked in school because it has no educational value. I’m sure that the students and staff at Ocoee Middle School in Orange County, CA would argue otherwise. They have my daughter singing their lyrics and me smiling.

Here are some links for some other great educational resources from YouTube.

Vicky Davis’s Favorite Inspirational YouTube Clips and YouTube in Education

YouTube’s SafetyCenterVideos’s Channel

Alec Couros’s 90+ Videos for Tech. & Media Literacy

Major updates to Google Docs

Back in October, I posted about some of the updates Google had made to Google Docs. Well, today they rolled out some additional features that I thought you might be interested in.

The one that is most important to me is that Google Docs will now allow you to see other Collaborators changes in real-time as they type. This may sound familiar to you if you are a Wave user, but what it sounds like to me is the chat feature that so many of us have been requesting in this app. You can get a peak of this character-by-character real-time function in the video below.

Additional features that you may be interested in are:

  • Creating collaborative drawings from the Docs list rather than only from within a Google Doc
  • Increased speed in Docs, so you should be able to edit with up to 50 simultaneous users (rather than the actual 10-12 synchronous users that most of us have experienced)
  • You’ll notice a ruler within your document for help with adjusting margins
  • Additional ease with moving images and formatting your documents

For additional information on the Google Docs improvements check out the Google Docs Enterprise Blog.

What My Droid Does – Part 5

If you are a Droid owner, you should have by now received your system update. It came with some pretty cool enhancements like:

  • New support for voice-to-text entry – tap on the microphone whenever a text-entry box appears on the virtual keyboard and speak (this has worked fairly well for me)
  • New Gallery application with 3D layout. (This reminds me of http://www.cooliris.com/)
  • Supposedly there’s a new night mode in Google Maps Navigation that automatically changes
    the screen at night to adjust to the lighting, but I haven’t had a chance to try it.
  • Read about the rest on the .pdf that Verizon sent out to Droid owners here.

Also, If you haven’t already, take a look at the Google for Android web page. Your Android powered phone most likely came with these applications already installed, but here you can find videos, more information or even the link to download the mobile app should you want it. Some of the applications listed here are:

Many of us have been waiting for Skype to come to the Android phone. Actually, I have blogged about using Skype Lite on my Droid to use the chat feature of Skype, but this is the full application – WITH ONE THING MISSING. Verizon has set the limitation that you can only use Skypemobile on the 3G network. So if you thought you were going to save on data charges by using your wifi to make Skype-to-Skype calls, it’s not going to happen.

Here are the Terms of Service that come up when you go to install it on your phone:

“Skype mobile is available within the National and Extended National Enhanced Services Coverage Areas, but not when using WiFi. Skype mobile features may vary from Skype on your PC. Domestic calls made from Skype mobile are carried by Verizon Wireless, not Skype, and are billed according to your Verizon Wireless plan. Skype calls to international numbers are billed by Skype at Skype international rates. Calls to 911 will be completed by Verizon Wireless. Skype mobile is not available when using per-line or per-call caller ID blocking. In the event of a conflict between these Verizon Wireless Skype mobile Terms and the Skype EULA, Skype TOS, or any other applicable terms, the provisions of the Verizon Wireless Skype mobile Terms shall apply.”

Yet, this is pretty cool as I communicate with many educators via Skype that I don’t have cell phone number for, and now I can talk to them without being tethered to a laptop/desktop.

I know from some Tweets I’ve seen that many Android users have been waiting for a version of Tweetdeck for the Android to be released. In the meantime, we have HootSuite. As listed on their site, here are some of the benefits of HootSuite that I would utilize when away from my laptop. (Actually, I frequently recommend Hootsuite to educators that use Twitter in school but don’t have the administrative rights to install Tweetdeck to their computers.)

  • Managing multiple identities and accounts
  • Creating custom views for tags and searches
  • Adding followers to lists and accounts
  • Sharing photos and shortening URLs

There’s a paid version for $2.99  and then the HootSuite for Android Lite for free.

ChaCha Droid

ChaCha – this neat little app allows you to query by voice and returns the answers by text right on your screen. Some of us have used ChaCha in the past by calling their 1-800 number or using a text message to send our question in, but this bypasses that process and the bonus is you can query by voice. I tried a few with success. If you go to the ChaCha Droid for Android page, their is a QR Code you can scan and install the app on your phone.

If you were a user of wpToGo to edit your WordPress blog from your Android phone, you may want upgrade to the new and improved WordPress for Android app. I don’t typically post from my Droid, but I will approve and reply to comments right from the WordPress for Android application. wpToGo is going to be discontinued, so upgrade soon. Here’s their video:

Google Buzz for the Android used to be just a web shortcut. Now there’s a widget that can be added to your Android desktop one of two ways. The first way is you can find it in the Android Market. The second way is you can scan the QR Code.   I scanned the code using my Barcode Scanner and then it brought me to the Google Buzz Widget.

I read the four points listed on the installation screen

  • Quickly post buzz publicly or privately
  • Add photos to your post from the camera or gallery
  • Share your location or place
  • Quickly access buzz.google.com

and realized that this widget was for posting to Buzz and not for staying connected to your Buzz contacts. So I went back to the site to read some of the comments. There was some concern about this as well as it not working on all Android phones and a desire for the QR Code (which had been added). Still, if you are using Buzz, this is a handy widget to have.