Sunday, December 16, 2012

Goodbye Apple, I’m leaving you

Well I can’t say we didn’t have good times.  You were my first (tablet). We traveled to 16 countries together.  Your 3G card was brilliant in Asia back in 2011 when every airport featured a local company happy to provide data to travellers.  But even during our beginnings, I didn’t understand why you had different apps for iPad and other devices.  Did you really need to charge me twice for ‘Plants and Zombies’?  Even after I invested in your proprietary 30 pin cables and music players with 30 pins, you went and changed to a new cable.  I really can’t start again will all new music players and cables in both cars.

I all ended last week when I found a willing new partner on Craigslist.  I traded my iPad Wifi+3G version 1 for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with 4G.  Like most of my interactions on Craigslist, both of us left happy.

Here is what you did to me over our 23 months together.  After only 23 months, you Apple decided not to allow me to upgrade my iOS to 6.  This leaves me on version 5 and now some of my favourite apps stopped working as they needed updating and I was no longer part of the club.

I want to have have all my bought apps run on all the devices in my home.  We are moving over to Android and it will be a long while before I consider coming back.

Not alone?

Looks like others have had the same concerns with Apple.  Since the release of iPhone 5 share price has dropped 24%.  This article on CNET has a few possible reasons. Here are my thoughts to make yourself relevant to others.

  1. Make more than one flavour of a phone.  Time to create a low-cost entry level phone that isn’t just the old 4s for sale.  Samsung seems to have this figured out with everything from the affordable ($200ish) Galaxy Ace II to the SIII superphone.  Even google has created a superphone for the sub-$400 price range with the Google Nexus 4.
  2. Dump iTunes.  With GooglePlay I can go to a website on any computer, buy an app and send it to download to all my phones and tablets with a few clicks.  iTunes is way too bloated.
  3. Put GPS and other core chips on all your devices like the iPod.  Those of us who enjoy the outdoors can then use Stava and other mapping apps.

Thoughts for Education

I’m still feeling that Apple is the best option for education and here’s why.  They overall ecosystem still has the best install base in North America.  This means that there are educators on my PLN using iDevices in classrooms with lessons and ideas on how to integrate.  Also app makers with educational apps still focus on apple devices.  Of course, this may change with time as education is a slow-turning ship.  Will have to reevaluate this over the coming months and years.

Feedback?

Mistake or not, the decision has been made.  What are other doing with their devices? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Environmental Explorers

Our class has been studying Environmental Science during the first term.  We have had weekly walking field trips to our amazing parks and green spaces around our school.  The big idea is that by having students complete specific science tasks they will better understand, value and respect nature.

nov12 136

Looking at the view from the bottom of Rocky Point inlet.

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A natural archway is a great place for a photo!

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Exploring the intertidal wetlands.

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Journaling at the Port Moody Area.  We all got cold hands at the ice rink!

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Ms. Ferguson along with the class.

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Doing our ‘VLogs’ in the forest.  Students do ‘Video Logs’ of the environment around them.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Digital Classrooms and BC’s Education Plan

This post is a compilation of activities, links and resources for the staff at Laity View Elementary.

Ed_Tech_purpose_graphic.JPG

BC’s Education Plan

The Ministry of Education in BC has a plan to change education in the province.  Their tag line is “The World Has Changed…The Way We Educate Our Children Should Too.” 

Watch this video and read the summary of the plan.

 

SWOT Analysis

We will work in groups to complete this chart.

Strengths of the Plan Weaknesses
Opportunities
Threats

Questions – what further questions do you have about the plan?  Are there details that are key to understanding and implementing the plan?

 

Blogging in the Classroom

Here is a demonstration of the an amazing blogging tool Posterous.  Posterous can take photos in an email attachment and format them into a great looking blog post.  When you send Posterous an email with a link to a YouTube video it automatically embeds the video onto the blog site.  Posterous also automatically embeds documents created in Word or even sound clips too.

  1. Be a guest blogger on my site by sending an email to workshop2012@posterous.com.  Test the site by including a photo, image, a link to a youtube video or a document.  Once the posts are approved by the teacher they will appear on the website.
  2. View the results at http://workshop2012.posterous.com

Your turn.  Create a free account at Posterous and start your first blog.  Choose a template and send in your first post.

 

Twitter for Educators

BIG IDEA: Participating in a Professional Learning Network

Here are some of the essential twitter skills that you’ll need to build a professional learning network.

Login and view your timeline

Twitter is like a newspaper in that every time you login there is a stream of text, links and thoughts to explore.  Scroll through your list of tweets from people you follow.

Please start by adding your twitter account to this list (http://bit.ly/Snnc9n) so we can connect to each other.  My twitter address is: http://twitter.com/#!/jmcconville1000, I look forward to following you back.

Write your Bio

Then upload a picture – most people won’t follow people without the basic information.

Following others

You’ll notice right away that people start following you.  Don’t be alarmed most people find you by the connections that twitter suggests.  When it comes to following people back here are some suggestions:

  • Follow people that have similar roles as yourself.  I always follow back educators that follow me.
  • Follow local people that you know!  Obvious but sometimes overlooked.
  • Politicians and special organizations are all tuned to twitter now.  Check for BC politicians or your BCTF executive.
  • News organizations that you visit will send out tweets of their headlines with a link to the full article if you are interested.
  • Look for people that don’t tweet too often.  If they are writing about what they had at the conference lunch then move along.

Make a list to categorize the people you follow such as people from your district to join the conversation.  Here are my lists.

Reply and Retweet

Now that you have a few people in your timeline it is time to send a thought, comment or response to someone.  Retweeting is a way to repeat what someone else said to your followers.

Sending a Tweet

Most people spend a while ‘lurking’ and reading other tweets before sending out their own post.  Looking for ideas?  Here is my guide to writing a good tweet.

Search Terms & Hashtags

They sound weird but are simply a way to find people having a conversation about a specific topic. Check out #Canucks (during a hockey game), #edchat (adhoc educational conversations),#bcedplan (BC’s education plan) or  ____

Advanced Skills – experts only

Use a tool like TweetDeck to personalize the experience. Twitter on your cell or other device.

Manage your followers – some tools to help you weed and prune.

Google+

Will this supplant twitter AND facebook in the future.  Google thinks so. View this video that explains how G+ works.  Unique features include circles, hangouts and more.

People to follow:

Monday, September 10, 2012

World’s Largest Science Experiment

Looking to engage your students in science.  Here is a very cool event being organized by the government of Canada to promote science education.  I’m part of the organizing committee and wanted to get this out to a many educators as possible.  Anyone in the world can participate!  I hope you take 30 minutes with your students to be part of this event!

Kids


Hello,

I am pleased to send you the announcement we are now circulating to parties that may be interested in our World Record-setting event.

As you may already know, we at Science.gc.ca and our partners are organizing the World's Largest Practical Science Lesson at multiple locations. It is a world record-setting event that will take place for 30 minutes on Friday, October 12, at exactly the same time across Canada.

 

We are now looking for event organizers and participants to make this historic record as great as possible. Do you think that you or the members of your organization would be interested in promoting this event for young Canadians? Or perhaps you would like to join other science centres, schools and organizations across Canada in being part of this memorable and fun experience.

The event will follow a simple lesson plan about Bernoulli's Principle, and attendees will perform two very simple experiments based on it.

All participating organizations and schools will be recognized, and event certificates for awarding to all who participate will be available for downloading from http://Science.gc.ca

Please visit http://www.science.gc.ca/newrecord to find out more and register.  This record-setting event will also mark the beginning of the National Science and Technology Week, which will be held this year from October 12 to 21 with celebrations and fun events for all Canadians.

Please help us by sharing this e-mail with any individuals and organizations that you think may be interested in helping out with this fun and educational science event.

I look forward to your reply, and will welcome any suggestions you might want to make to ensure that this event is a success!

Best wishes,

Monday, July 30, 2012

PDF to Text Converters - Review

Here is a problem I’m trying to solve.  How do I turn a scanned document into text that I can edit in a program like Microsoft Word?

Schools are very fortunate to now have multifunction photocopiers available for teacher use.  The machines make quick work of scanning multipage documents into PDF attachments.  These PDF’s can now be stored on a teacher website for sharing.  But what if the teacher wants to edit the document prior to posting?  For example, perhaps they have lost the original word document of a newsletter and want update some of the information.

There are a number of FREE programs that provide this service.  Let’s see how they work with a PDF document that I have from our copier/scanner.

Nuance PDF reader 7.0 image

http://www.nuance.co.uk

Cost: FREE

Problems:  needs to be installed on a teacher computer. That means jumping through hoops to get a technician to install.

Outcome: Did an almost perfect job of interpreting the document.  It even found the bolded words.  Only about one error/page.

Zamzar Online

Cost: FREE

Fully online and easy to use with their four-step process.

image

Outcome: Didn’t turn any of the text in the document into something that could be edited in word.  Seems to have turned all the text to a single image.  Not helpful.

PDF Converterimage

http://www.pdfconverter.com/free-pdf-conversion-online/

Cost: FREE

Got an email from this company asking me to evaluate their product, here is my first trial.  The are fully online so there isn’t software to install.  They have much less distracting advertising on their site than Zamzar and they offer a straightforward three step process.

NOTE (update to original post) This free version is intended to convert originally created PDF documents rather than scanned versions.  Their paid product PDF Converter Elite is designed to work with scanned documents.

Outcome:  Fairly good conversion.  Had errors in characters of the text that a different font in the original.  Also had layout errors.  For example, where a paragraph was indented it added unwanted line breaks.  While the text is editable, it would take a while to cleanup for reuse.

Recommendation

Nuance PDF Reader (and converter) was the best overall PDF to word converter.  For teachers it would be worth the extra effort to get it installed on a desktop for use.

Feedback/comments? 

I’d be interested to hear from other teachers.  What do you use and recommend for scanning and converting documents?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Having Great Ambitions: moral and civic backbone

Do you have those moments when many different thoughts and plans all start to come together?  I had one of those listening to CBC the other day.  During the ‘On the Coast’ show in an interview with music host Lisa Christiansen they shared an audio clip from a video of Henry Rollins.  He is a former lead man for a punk rock band. 

My personal connection was to the planning for my students next year.  The team of teachers that I’m working with have been drawn to the global theme of “What if everyone cared?”.  This video by Henry Rollins is an amazing message to young people, especially the adolescents who are trying to find their place in society.  There are two videos below.  The top one is the very popular remix followed by the original interview with a simple white background.

 

“If you have an idea of what you want to do in your future, you must go at it with almost monastic obsession be it music, the ballet or just a basic degree.”

Well said!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PICMONKEY: photo editing made easy

imageTeachers looking for a safe, free, easy to use picture editor check out picmonkey.com.  Here are some of the features that make it so compelling for education.

  1. FREE – we are all on tight budgets, who doesn’t want something great for free?
  2. No account needed.  With school administration increasingly concerned about student privacy it is great to find a site that doesn’t require students to create an account to get started.
  3. Effects, stickers and text can be added to photos with ease.

Getting Started

  1. Take a photo on your camera.  Consider turning down the resolution to 5 megapixels or less to make the site run faster.
  2. Click ‘Edit your photo’ and upload the photo
  3. When you have all the text, effects done click save.

The downside of not having an account is that all edits need to be done before you close the browser as you can’t continue editing the photo the next day.

Effects

When teaching students about body images it is great to have them use the ‘touch up’ effects.  Students seem to know that most fashion magazines use photoshop to retouch photos to achieve our image of modern beauty.  The great think about picmonkey is that students can try to beautify, recolour, tan themselves with the privacy of their own computer.  Awesome!

image

Another effect not to miss is CLONE.  Simply designate part of the photo such as a face as the source and then paint a clone onto another part of the picture.

Overlays and Text

There are countless stickers and shapes that students can add to their photos.  Think of picmonkey as your personal scrapbook site!

imageimage

Comparable websites

Still find that picmonkey doesn’t meet your classroom needs?  Here are some other sites to explore.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why the iPad is bad for education

‘Amazing, revolutionary, a new era in technology’.  The iPad may be all these things but in my humble opinion it is bad for education and schools.  Here are some reasons.

They aren’t popular.

The iPad isn’t designed to be a primary home computer.  Not even a secondary device.  Ask any student, do you want a cell phone?  Of course they do.  So, at best, an iPad is a tertiary technology purchase and won’t have the ubiquity education needed to begin meaningful integration.  The classes will be split between the have and the have not students.  iPads promote social division between students who we are encouraging to work cooperatively in our classes.

They are only designed to be a one user device.

The reason that most schools still have computer labs with desktop computers is multifold.  They always have power and have good connectivity as they are wired to the network and internet.  They are also great for having multiple students use them in a given day.  This doesn’t work for the iPad.  Take for example the email app which is designed for one user to check and send messages.

Back to my previous point.  Apple has designed a one user machine for the simple reason that the less it can be shared the more they sell.  Even at the ‘cheap’ price of $499 that would be a whopping $400,000 to get them for all the students at our school.

They promote media consumption not creation

The small keyboard is difficult and slow to type on.  Voice dictation accuracy is average to poor.  Our ESL and special need students who most need voice input, it would be terrible.  Therefore, writing, blogging and having students create projects would be a worse experience than regular laptops/desktops.

Purchasing Apps is for individuals not schools

There isn’t clear information on how schools can get discounts for bulk purchase of apps.  Check out the terms of use on the apple site.  Let’s say your class has a mix of school owned and personal iPads.  If you had ‘an awesome’ paid app, how would you get it on all iPads?

They don’t support flash

Really Apple?  I’ve read Steve Job’s open letter to Adobe and still don’t get it.  There are so many great free educational sites that are built on flash.  One of my favourite websites for having students practice keyboarding flash based Dance Mat Typing.  Why can’t I use this site on my iPad?

They are fragile

Take this as an example.  Let’s say your school uses eBooks on the iPad.  Now the simple statement of ‘open your book and turn to page 123’ is now a lesson in patience as the device loads, student find the app and opens the textbook.  If the book is WiFi dependent there is another challenge to overcome.  When the battery runs out there isn’t only no iPad there is no textbook.

Links

I’m not the only person who feels this way.  Here are some other posts to support this view

Why iPads can’t succeed in education by Liam Cassidy

Why the iPad Will Not Reform Higher Education Anytime Soon by Lindsay Pund

Thoughts or Comments?

OK, I know that this post is intentionally controversial and against common views of educators that own one (including myself).  Agree or disagree with a comment below.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Social Learning Network

Hello to the attendees at the COTA Conference in Kelowna!

BIG IDEA for this session: learning is participatory

We are going to spend some time using and talking about how social networks, mostly twitter, can be professional networks.

Login and view your timeline

Twitter is like a newspaper in that every time you login there is a stream of text, links and thoughts to explore.  Scroll through your list of tweets from people you follow. 

Please start by posting a comment to this blog with a link to your twitter account so we can connect to each other.  My twitter address is: http://twitter.com/#!/jmcconville1000, I look forward to following you back.

Write your Bio

Then upload a picture – most people won’t follow people without the basic information.

Following others

You’ll notice right away that people start following you.  Don’t be alarmed most people find you by the connections that twitter suggests.  When it comes to following people back here are some suggestions:

  • Follow people that have similar roles as yourself.  I always follow back educators that follow me.
  • Follow local people that you know!  Obvious but sometimes overlooked.
  • Politicians and special organizations are all tuned to twitter now.  Check for BC politicians or your BCTF executive.
  • News organizations that you visit will send out tweets of their headlines with a link to the full article if you are interested.
  • Look for people that don’t tweet too often.  If they are writing about what they had at the conference lunch then move along.

Make a list to categorize the people you follow such as people from your district to join the conversation.  Here are my lists.

Reply and Retweet

Now that you have a few people in your timeline it is time to send a thought, comment or response to someone.  Retweeting is a way to repeat what someone else said to your followers.

Sending a Tweet

Most people spend a while ‘lurking’ and reading other tweets before sending out their own post.  Looking for ideas?  Here is my guide to writing a good tweet.

Search Terms & Hashtags

They sound weird but are simply a way to find people having a conversation about a specific topic. Check out #Canucks (during a hockey game), #edchat (adhoc educational conversations), #bcedplan (BC’s education plan) or  ____

Advanced Skills – experts only

Use a tool like TweetDeck to personalize the experience. Twitter on your cell or other device.

Manage your followers – some tools to help you weed and prune.

Google+

Will this supplant twitter AND facebook in the future.  Google thinks so. View this video that explains how G+ works.  Unique features include circles, hangouts and more.

Looking for more?

If we have time here are some activities we can explore from my other session called ‘Digital Classrooms that Work’ at this conference.

Presentation by Brian Kuhn on Twitter and social networks.

Join the conversation by posting a comment below with a link to your twitter account!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Digital Classrooms that Work

Hello to the attendees at the COTA Conference in Kelowna!

BIG IDEA for this session: create to learn

Please contribute to each of the activities below so that we have content to demonstrate how they could work in a classroom environment.Ed_Tech_purpose_graphic.JPG

Survey with Google Docs

Surveys can be quickly created to gather feedback from students.  They can also be created by students for math lessons.  Google docs make them easy to share and have a very graphical view of results.

  1. complete this survey
  2. view results – click on ‘Form’ show summary of responses to see the graphical results.
  3. Notes and explanation of how it was created.  Google docs can be collaborative even if students don’t have a google (gmail) account.

Blogging as a Class with Posterous

Posterous is a blogging site that allows you to simply post by sending an email.  The email can include picture attachments, office documents, sound clips or links to YouTube videos.  All file types will be converted to a format suitable for viewing on the internet.

  1. Be a guest blogger on my site by sending an email to workshop2012@posterous.com.  Test the site by including a photo, image, a link to a youtube video or a document.  Once the posts are approved by the teacher they will appear on the website.
  2. View the results at http://workshop2012.posterous.com

Draw & Poster

Assessment

Quizlet lets you make matching games.  Try this Internet Safety Quiz.

Engrade is an online gradebook that has built in portal technologies for students and parents to check in at home.  See more about Engrade.

Wiki document sharing

While google docs aren’t classified as a wiki they do have the amazing ability to allow live synchronous writing.  Try this online debate.

Voice discussion about pictures with VoiceThread

Voice comment on the following pictures or respond to what others have shared.  You’ll need to register for a voicethread account.  The VoiceThread is embedded below or you can view on the VoiceThread site.

 

Thanks for reading, participating and exploring the links.  Leave a comment below.  Share a link to your twitter account or post about which digital learning tools will you try with your students?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Writing a Good Twitter Tweet

Twitter has been around for since 2006 and now boast 100’s of millions of users.  While many of the accounts are inactive, some people are prolific at posting their every thought and activity.  As an educator, there are definitely some features that I consider a good post.  Here is my list.

  • Be informative - share something you've found, a resource, educational video. Sending links via email is so '1990's'
  • Ask a question - an open ended question on a broad topic can get interesting responses from your followers.
  • Be topical - sending a tweet during a live event. Eg. #canucks during a game to share in the celebration will be read by those at the game and at home.
  • Add humour - everyone likes to lighten their day with a laugh.
  • Post an opinion tweet - a word of caution here but nothing gets responses like an interesting point-of-view. Consider adding a link to support your opinion.
  • Add personal thoughts – when sharing a link to someone’s blog post add a few words that ‘capture’ you that contributes to the message.  Idea from Gino.

What else is missing from this list? Send me a tweet @jmcconville1000

Thoughts? Comments? What do you like see in a good tweet?

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