QR Codes in Everyday Life

House for Sale

I saw my friend and colleague, Kristine Scharaldi, yesterday and she shared an article with me that she had clipped out of the local newspaper. I got a real chuckle out of it. But on the way home, I started thinking about the topic some more and when I passed this house up for sale on the way to pick up my kids, I had to take a picture.

The topic of the article from Kristine was how some gravestone engravers are offering to add a QR-code for an additional fee.   What a great way to read, view and learn more about the person you are visiting if you have a smart phone.

Image source: http://a.abcnews.com

I’ve been using QR-Codes when I present as a way to quickly share the URL to the attendees. So far, most people would just assume have the URL, but there seems to be about 20% of the people that are happy to use their phones to scan the code. (My generator of choice is http://goo.gl/ because of all the statistics it provides.)

To learn about using QR Codes in school, you can also take a look at Tom Barrett‘s Interesting Ways presentation on the topic. Or view this video from McGuffey School District in Claysville, PA.

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A Non-Techie Resource: Bucket Fillers

If you Google “Bucket Fillers”, as I did when my 2nd grader came home talking about it last fall, the first link that you will most likely click on will be the  Bucket Fillers 101 site. It was here that I first read about the book by Carol McCloud and learned that this was about spreading love and good feelings towards others. For my daughter, at first, it was also about boosting her self esteem. She was coming home with little slips of paper (from her bucket) that said she was a good reader, that someone liked her shirt, that she had a nice smile. This did amazing things for her social well being as she was the new kid in her class and feeling very shy.

I asked Emma’s teacher if we could work on a project together documenting how the students used the buckets. The students would write the script for an Animoto, I would take the pictures, but they would creatively design poses that didn’t include any faces as we wanted to be able to share the video on YouTube.

This did amazing things for her social well being as she was the new kid in her class and feeling very shy.

In the meantime, I came to find that Bucket Filling was not such a unique concept. I heard Lisa Parisi and Maria Knee talking about it on Conversations. I saw that Scholastic had a post about it. I even found that countless educators had posted their lessons plans and resources using buckets in their classrooms.

So Mrs. Skaar from Evergreen Elementary School in Scotch Plains and I forged ahead. We set aside two blocks of time that I would work in the classroom with the students. She work ahead of time with them writing the script and then her student teacher and I helped them type everything into the computer. (They only had one computer in the classroom, so between my laptop and that one, we typed as fast as we could.)

You might ask why all of this?

I wanted to make sure that my daughter always remembered the lessons she learned in Mrs. Skaar’s class about being a Bucket Filler and not a Bucket Dipper. I saw the impact that it had on her and I wanted to create the video with the students so that they could look back and remember how it felt to read the little slips of paper. I also wanted them to share the experience with their families, so Mrs. Skaar sent the link to the Animoto to all the parents after we were finished.

Lastly, I encouraged Mrs. Skaar to share the project with her peers and I hoped that the video would encourage other teachers in the district to adopt Bucket Filling, or something similar, in their classrooms. Many of the students in the class expressed an interest in continuing with the program the next year, and I certainly could imagine both my children benefiting from boosts in self esteem and lessons in non-bullying behavior. Please watch their video and consider looking into their program if you don’t already do something similar with your students.

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
http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2008/02/favorite-inspirational-youtube-clips.html

YouTube’s SafetyCenterVideos’s Channel
http://www.youtube.com/user/SafetyCenterVideos

Alec Couros’s 90+ Videos for Tech. & Media Literacy
http://couros.wikispaces.com/TechAndMediaLiteracyVids

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.

www.cooliris.com/

My Droid, My Dream Come True

Image Source: http://www.productqas.com

I’ve been using my Blackberry 8830 since November 2007. I got it around the same time lots of my techie friends were getting their iPhones, but I refused to switch providers as my family has four lines and it was just too much to go through that kind of hassle. I’m sure you understand.

My Blackberry did everything I wanted it to. I was able to communicate through e-mail, Twitter and ultimately Facebook as well. But as time went by, browsing became an issue. The model I had did not have a built in camera and the multimedia functions of it were just not fulfilling my needs. So much so that when I was in my own home and other Wi-Fi environments, I got in the habit of using my iPod Touch to access all of my social networks and communication needs.

Then came the Droid.

This is an early holiday gift from my husband. (You’re welcome Chris. Now you don’t have to go shopping for me.) After reading and researching the Android Market and checking out the many features of the phone itself, I took a field trip to my provider’s store this past Sunday. Here are the initial features that sold me:

  • 3G network
  • camera (by the way it’s a 5 megapixels)
  • video camera
  • 3.7 inch touch screen
  • pre-installed apps (like Facebook and YouTube)
  • Wi-Fi capable

I turned off my Blackberry forever. It was funny. A few days later my 6-year old asked me if I missed it and I realized that for the last couple of years she’s known me to pretty much always have it with me. But the answer was easy. I didn’t miss it at all.

I walked out of the store, got in my car and just for fun used the Google Maps with Navigation over speakerphone to get home. The voice over the Droid gave me ACCURATE, turn-by-turn directions to get right to my driveway. Not that I won’t still use my Garmin GPS, but it’s nice to have an alternative.

One thing that the gentleman at the store explained to me is that I would no longer be able to use Microsoft Outlook to sync my Calendar and Contacts. Bummer. So, when I got inside, I fired up my computer and exported everything out of Outlook and imported everything into my Google Account. This is something I had planned to ultimately do anyway, I guess I just needed a reason. Check this out:

  • Google Over the Air updates – no need for a wire to sync your phone – it happens over the air and automatically – Holy Cow!!
  • Integrated Google and Facebook contacts – so someone calls me and I see their Facebook picture
  • Rotate the Droid and the screen changes to landscape, rotate again it goes back to the portrait orientation
  • Android Market
Image Source: http://www.dialaphone.co.uk

I’ve been downloading and using a few of the apps from the Android Market. There are about 10,000 apps there. I realize that for you iPhone users, there’s still no comparison, and I’m not writing about the Droid to bring it into the classroom, but because it’s such a great productivity tool for me. So here are the apps that I have downloaded and used so far with thanks to Damian Bariexca and Paula White:

  • Twidroid“twidroid is the industry-standard twitter client for android and among the most used twitter applications across all platforms. it’s available as a free and commercial pro version that supports all twitter features as well as functionality that is customized to the capabilities of android devices.”
  • Flashlightsimple white screen allows you to see in dark places
  • Mother TED“Mother TED allows you to watch the latest TED videos based on Themes, Talks and Tags.”
  • Where“WHERE is a bundle of cool GPS apps all wrapped into one. Are you looking for the hottest restaurants, jonesing for your next coffee fix, or need a cheap fill-up? Maybe you want to know the local weather, traffic or headlines? Whatever you are after, WHERE has it.”

It’s not quite yet a week. I have so much to learn. I’ve been bookmarking some great resources and I plan on posting more on the Droid in the near future. If you have one and care to share your experiences or some apps that have been helpful, please do. If you are thinking about getting one,  don’t hesitate to ask me about mine.

Running and Reading

I speak with educators frequently about not starting from a blank slate. As teachers and administrators, you are so busy that recreating the wheel is not a productive use of your time. You should consider checking out what resources are out there before you begin writing curriculum, preparing for a presentation, or designing a unit of instruction.

This is not an original concept. But so many of us worked in isolation, behind the closed doors of our classrooms for so many years, that it doesn’t come naturally to us to reach out to others for assistance. It has just been recently that so many of us have join in on Social Bookmarking, Nings and other methods of sharing resources with each other.

As I was watching this video, it linked the whole week together for me. It’s funny how as you drive in your car, or are out walking the dog, (you know, the times you actually can catch moments to think to yourself) how everything becomes somehow connected…

Will Smith says in this video “There’s no new problem you can have with your parents, with school, with a bully, with anything. There’s no problem you can have that someone hasn’t already solved and wrote about it in a book.”

On Tuesday, I was listening to a middle school math teacher introduce exponents to her class. She spoke with them about the Twilight book series and the upcoming movie release. The students used their calculators to figure out how many people would become affected should one person in the class be bit by a vampire. I was impressed at how engaged they were and the teacher really made a great decision as to her choice of pop-culture connection to meet her objective.

Tuesday evening when I was doing home work with my daughters, I looked through the papers that their teachers sent home and was happy to see this. I figured that “Why I Can’t Skip My 20 Minutes or Reading Tonight?”,  couldn’t be unique to this particular school, so I Googled it and found that it’s widespread. I saw some familiar websites in the search results including the one I’ve provided from 1st grade teacher Marcy McGowan of HW Mountz School in Spring Lake. Here I was again with the exponents. The idea of how far behind my daughters would be if they didn’t complete their reading assignment each night. (Thankfully they both have a love for reading and at this point in time, it’s a non-issue.)

Friday morning I taught a podcasting workshop and would you believe it, the theme of exponents came up again as the enthusiasm exploded for just how many students and families this type of technology would be able to help int he district.

Will said “the person that works the hardest wins”.

He also said that the two keys to life were running and reading. If you haven’t watched the video yet, please take ninety seconds to watch it and then go read these books.

The Tipping Point
http://books.google.com/books?id=MMlxzMNkE_0C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Disrupting Class
http://books.google.com/books?id=wiBcUl44FEcC&printsec=frontcover&lr=#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Everything Bad is Good for You
http://books.google.com/books?id=9_YZyOfgqbEC&printsec=frontcover&lr=#v=onepage&q=&f=false

Waiting for the Wave

Image Source: http://content.zdnet.com
Image Source: http://content.zdnet.com

The Google Wave that is.

That’s what I heard many of the new Google Certified Teachers (GTCs) whispering to each other this past Wednesday at the Google Teacher Academy in Boulder, Colorado.

In late May, on the Official Google Blog, Google announced that Google Wave was available to developers to tinker with and that you could sign up for an e-mail alert for Wave’s public launch later this year. (According to TechCrunch, the first 100,000 invites go out on September 30th.)

So, let me explain, in simple terms a little bit about what Google Wave is. It’s about conversation.

There are three key technologies in Google Wave that will make this communication tool more collaborative and efficient than e-mail of the past:

  1. Live collaborative editing means that you see the people in the conversation typing in real-time. (Think of Skype, SMS or other chat programs where you wait for the person to hit enter before you see what they have written.) By the way, this can be with more than one person at a time. So if there are six people in the Wave, you can see anyone who is typing in the conversation. They can also send you a private message.
  2. Natural Language Tools enable you to focus on what you are typing and not worry about any mistakes you might type. Google’s philosophy behind this new technology is that you should be able to type about 5% faster. Google looks at millions of web pages to see statistically how people use language in practice. This works much different than the red and green squiggly lines in a word processing program. Since Wave is web hosted,  it doesn’t matter whether you are on your Smart Phone, laptop or desktop, you will receive these recommendations for grammar and spelling. These language tools will continue improving as we all continue using the web.
  3. Embedding means that you can get the code (html) for your Wave and put it on your website, wiki or blog. You can also add gadgets to your Wave as you would to your iGoogle page.
Image Source http://4.bp.blogspot.com
Image Source http://4.bp.blogspot.com

So, here’s the big question? What are the implications for educators and students?

Don’t let the technical stuff behind Google Wave get you. This is going to be cool. Though I don’t think that it is going to be added to Google Apps Education Edition anytime soon, I do think that Google Wave may just be the answer for those educators that get e-mail, but don’t quite get Google Docs yet.

This mashup of e-mail, IM, pictures, video, maps, maybe a little bit of a Twitter-like app will allow administrators, teachers, parents, even some students to be better communicate with each other. The conversation will be more collaborative when necessary. With Google Wave you can go back and play the Wave again (which many of us need).   This may just be what we’ve all been looking for.

Resources:

Google Wave Developer Blog
http://googlewavedev.blogspot.com/

The Official Google Blog
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/went-walkabout-brought-back-google-wave.html

ZD Net: Meet Google Wave
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=18817&tag=rbxccnbzd1

TechCrunch: Google Wave Drips with Ambition
http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/28/google-wave-drips-with-ambition-can-it-fulfill-googles-grand-web-vision/