Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Favorite Apps and Tools from TCEA

Our team had the privilege of presenting six times at TCEA earlier this month. TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) was founded in 1980 and has a yearly conference in Austin that is jam-packed with innovative sessions.

During our week there we came across many new apps and tools that we like and a few of them made our blog spotlight this week. Check them out and see if any are a good fit for you and your learners!

Office Lens
Free - Apple and Android
Have you ever been in a session or meeting and wanted to take a photo of the projected image but you’re at an angle or too far away? The Office Lens app downloads to a device and you use it instead of your device’s photo app to activate the camera and take a picture of a whiteboard, document, or even a business card. It will frame and enhance the photo and you have the option of saving it to your camera roll or adding it to a Microsoft tool.

Google Tone
Google Tone is a way to take a website you’re viewing in Google Chrome and easily send it to other computers near you. You activate the Tone extension in your Chrome browser and it uses your computer’s speakers to play a short tone. Other computers that are near you and also have Tone activated will "hear" the tone and their computer will automatically open to the website you shared. Instead of having students type in an address or scan a QR code, they can just open the Chrome extension and let their computer hear the tone to open a website.

English Idioms Illustrated
Free - Apple
Idioms in the English language don’t always translate well to other languages. For example, "Cool as a cucumber” does not have the same connotation in Spanish, so these playful illustrations of the idioms make meaning of English idioms. We could not find an illustrated idiom app for Android but we did find other idiom apps that are helpful.

Help Lightning
Free - Apple and Android
Help Lightning is a combination of a video conference and virtual reality. Two devices with Help Lightning can connect similarly to Skype or FaceTime; they can see and hear each other. However, in Help Lightning, they can also point to items virtually on the other person’s screen. Imagine not just seeing a student’s homework on screen but being able to virtually point to a specific section of the page. Their site has a cool video to demonstrate how the tool works and how it can be used in many ways.

Free - Website and Apple
Sway is an easy way to build high quality presentations, newsletters, projects, and much more. After creating a free account via their Website or via the Apple app (the Android app is still in development) you load your content such as photos or text. With a click of a button, your content is formatted and transformed into an eye-catching, polished, customizable presentation which is easily shared across social media or via email. We heard it being called an alternative to PowerPoint - and that is true - but it’s also an alternative to many other tools as well.

Those are just some of the many new tools we discovered at TCEA. Did you find any new tools you loved at TCEA? Or do you know of a cool tool you'd like to share with others? Just drop a comment below and share with our PLN!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Digital Learning Day

Digital Learning Day was this Wednesday, February 17. Of course, we Instructional Technology Specialists wanted to capitalize on this day to hear from our community of educators about the digital learning that is happening in their classrooms and campuses.

Twitter Chat

Our #pisdedchat theme this week was "Livin' in a Digital World". Many educators from PISD and beyond joined the rich discussion on what digital learning is, its impact on students and teachers, barriers that impede digital equity, and more. Below are the chat questions and you can catch up on the conversation via the Storify link below. It's worth reading!

Here is the Storify: https://storify.com/techknowleah/pisdedchat-february-16-2016

Twitter Challenge!

On Wednesday, we had a Digital Learning Day PISD Twitter Challenge! #pisdDLDay

PISD educators took the time to share the digital learning that was happening in their classrooms with each other and the world. Click the Storify link below to see the many pictures of digital learning taking place live!

Here is the Storify of the awesome #pisdDLDay Tweets that came through that day! https://storify.com/techknowleah/pisddlday-digital-learning-day-twitter-challenge

Using "The Hat" and Screencast-o-matic, Leah drew names of all who participated in the Twitter challenge and published this video to announce the prize winners. Many thanks to Clara for collecting the great prizes to give away!

The Why

We want to thank the Alliance for Excellent Education for establishing this day to put a spotlight on tech integration.
"Digital Learning Day was started as a way to actively spread innovative practices to ensure that all youth have access to high-quality learning opportunities." Alliance for Education, 2016, http://www.digitallearningday.org//site/Default.aspx?PageID=71
We were very pleased to see that teachers, librarians, and principals are using technology to enrich the learning and the involvement of everyone in their classrooms and campus.

Thanks to all who participated in the chat, the challenge, and to those front-runners who aren't afraid to use technology to enrich and improve student learning!

More Information

If you'd like to learn more on the topic of digital learning, visit the Digital Learning Day website for informative reading material, videos, and tech integration ideas.

Rafranz Davis emceed a live webinar series during the entire Digital Learning Day. Visit this site Digital Equity: The Road Ahead to watch the recap video!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The ISTE Proposed New Student Standards

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has recently released a draft proposing seven new student standards for learning and technology. You can read the entire draft here, but to synopsize, the standards are:

1. Empowered learner: Students take an active role in choosing and pursuing their learning goals, leveraging technology to plan, convey, and achieve them.

2. Knowledge constructor: Students construct knowledge and make meaning for themselves and others by using digital tools to curate data and information.

3. Innovative designer/maker: Students use computing or digital tools within the design process to solve problems or create new, useful, or imaginative designs or products.

4. Computational thinker: Students identify and explore authentic problems using algorithmic thinking to propose or automate solutions.

5. Creative communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the tools, styles, formats, and digital media appropriate to their goals.

6. Global collaborator: Students use digital tools to learn from others and effectively work in teams.

7. Digital citizen: Students operate in a manner that demonstrates their understanding of the opportunities, responsibilities, risks, and foundational skills required to live, learn, and work in an increasingly digital world.

What do you think of this proposal? How do these standards fit with all the other standards that you and your students are expected to meet? How would addressing these standards impact your teaching? Please join #pisdedchat the next three weeks (February 9, 16, and 23) for a discussion of these new standards. Each week, we'll take a look at two or three of them and explore a little more deeply how these standards might impact your teaching and your students' learning.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tools to Connect with Students and Parents

At the beginning of this school year, our school board updated a policy stating that staff were no longer required to use myPISD.net. All are encouraged to explore other options and myPISD.net is still available as an option for staff.

Communicating with students, parents, and the larger PISD community can take many forms and PISD Tech is often asked for suggestions. There is not one magic site that will be the perfect fit for all grade levels or subject areas but here are a few suggestions.

What is it?  Classrooms cutting down on paper enjoy Google Classroom because of the ways to create, distribute, complete, submit, and grade assignments online. Google Classroom is available to GAFE districts and can be accessed easily via the web or by downloading the free Classroom app. Collaborative or individual work is easy to do in Google Classroom. There are also ways to have engaging conversations in a private setting.
Pros - Google Classroom has unlimited storage. It’s free. It’s easy to use and easy to access. A simple YouTube search can provide dozens of tutorial videos and their Help Site is awesome!
Cons - Only school districts associated with GAFE can use Google Classroom. It is not accessible via regular Gmail addresses. Parents can only view Google Classroom content if they have their child’s login and password.
Bonus - PISD Tech would be happy to help you set this up!

What is it?  Weebly is a place to build a website of your own. The design, layout, and style is your choice and its drag-and-drop features are easy to use. Teachers can post blogs, photos, videos, and any other course content easily and students can access it via the web.
Pros  Customizing your site to your classroom is easy to do. You can select your own site name and have an unlimited number of pages within your site. Students and parents only need to be able to access with web to view your content anywhere in the world. The site has a helpful support page and offer free live-chat assistance.
Cons - It’s considered a “freemium” product. The free version of this product has a storage limit of 500MB and will not allow a teacher password protect a page. Teachers are required to pay for a higher version of this product to access more features and get more storage.
Bonus - PISD Tech would be happy to help you set this up!

What is it? - A Google Folder can contain different kinds of content and is stored within Google Drive. It is similar to a folder in the Shared Drive however, this Google Folder can be viewed by staff, students, and/or parents either inside or outside of PISD.  The content in the Google Folder can be large or small files such as videos, documents, images, or other course content. The teacher would be the owner of the Google Folder and assign rights to students and parents such as viewers, editors, or commenters.
Pros - It’s free. It has unlimited storage. Students and parents only need to click a link to view the contents without having to log in. Uploading content into the folder is easy and it can be organized into color-coded subfolders. The Google Drive Help Forum is great!
Cons - It’s a folder so it will not have a layout or design like a website.
Bonus - PISD Tech would be happy to help you set this up!

What is it?  Facebook is a social networking site that is familiar to many users. Teachers can post blogs, photos, videos, and any other course content. Students and parents with a Facebook account can access the Facebook page via the web or by downloading the free Facebook app.
Pros - It’s a free and easy to use format that is familiar to those with Facebook accounts. A page can be set to private so that only specific users can view content.
Cons - Only those with a Facebook account can access the content. Students under the age of 13 cannot have a Facebook account. Facebook retains the rights to sell your data and information for marketing purposes.
Bonus - PISD Tech would be happy to help you set this up!

What is it?  A Google Site is a place to build a website of your own. The design, layout, and style is your choice. Teachers can post blogs, photos, videos, and any other course content and students can access it via the web. If a Google Site is created with a GAFE account, it will have 10G of storage space. A teacher can opt to have the Google Site viewed by anyone in the world or only his/her students. Another option is for staff to allow students rights to edit site content.
Pros - It’s free. Students and parents only need to be able to access with web to view course content anywhere in the world. The Google Sites Help Center is growing every day!
Cons - Google Sites is an advanced tool that requires more work to set up. A good knowledge of web design and GAFE is helpful but not necessary.
Bonus - PISD Tech would be happy to help you set this up!

We’re sure you caught the Bonus was the same for each suggestion. The PISD Tech team is always happy to help you with these or any other applications you’re interested in learning.

The five suggestions above are certainly not the only ones out there and we encourage you to explore your options. Some staff members choose to use several tools simultaneously to meet their needs. The right tool (or combination of tools) for you depends upon your audience, your management style, and your course content. It is our hope that you will find the right tool that fits you and your learners and remember we are here to help you along the way!