Tag Archives: technology

Laptop, Tablet, or Desktop? Google Docs or Office 365? Which technology is best for high school and college?

What’s best for school, a laptop, tablet, or PC?

Heading back to school always feels like a fresh start. And like a new set of clothes, getting a new device just makes you feel good.

But for high school and college students, freshmen especially, the choice of technology can really impact academic performance. The wrong choice can make school difficult or, worse, become an excuse not to do well.

Into the start of the 2016-17 school year, I thought it’s time for an update from previous posts here on the topic. The technologies haven’t changed much, but there are more options — and most importantly, more affordable ones.


Here for previous posts on the best technology for school:
College bound: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac?
The Best Computers for College: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac pt 2


What has changed significantly, though, is the “cloud.” Continue reading

Parents & Teens Beware: like diamonds & tattoos, social media posts are forever

gaming and social mediaSeemed like a good idea at the time…

Two recent Skype incidents remind us of the dangers of social media and the “instant age.”

One, an offensive albeit private joke ignorantly shared online, the other a deliberate spamming via Skype messaging remind us that parents can and should be aware of their teen student’s social media activities. Here are some warnings and suggestions, starting with the idea that with social media, private is never really private.

Likes, Moods, Tweets & Eternal Connectedness

You may have heard about how one Facebook “like” can expose a supposedly private account to a viral world (see CBS article on Five Hidden Dangers of Facebook)

And you have probably seen the news that broke recently about The Bong Hit That Cost an NFL Prospect 8 Million.  It wasn’t the use of the drug that cost him $8mm, it was the picture of it that ended up on Twitter on the biggest day of his life – 7 years after the picture was taken. Oops. Continue reading

Tips for Teachers: How to use OneNote for total organization and teacher efficiency

Even if you’ve never heard of OneNote, you probably already own it. And if you do, you already own one of the best organizational tools out there.

Today’s Tip for Teachers is how to use OneNote, a free program from Microsoft that is a potential game-changer for teachers.

What One Note Solves for Teachers

  • Paperwork
  • Managing Files
  • Storing and Finding Information
  • Meetings Notes
  • Efficiency
  • Anywhere Whiteboard

What is OneNote?

  • Digital Notebook
    • free
    • part of MS Office
    • use on any device
  • No files!! (database)
  • Syncs across all devices
  • Powerful search

Some uses for OneNote

  • Checklists & Brainstorms
  • Integration w/ Office & the web
    • phone app gives full access to OneNote
    • post websites to OneNote
    • post emails to OneNote
    • track meeting notes via Outlook or Skype
    • add or link files, spreadsheets
    • Cut/Paste
  • Whiteboard
  • Sharing
  • Other features
    • Password Protection
    • Voice note

Resources:

 

Introducing “Tips for Teachers”: building efficiencies to free you to teach (and not waste so much time doing everything else)

The number one teacher complaint is time.

Introducing “Tips for Teachers,” a series of blog posts, videos, lessons, and ideas from School4Schools.com LLC on helping teachers get through their routines and days more efficiently – so they can focus on what they love and what they’re there for: teaching kids.

Tips for Teachers will focus on teacher processes and the use of technology to build efficiencies in every day tasks.

Some coming posts include:

  • Using Outlook to get in control communication, tasks, calendars, and email management.
  • Using OneNote for organization, brainstorming, and task management, as well as some of its other cool features such as email integration and whiteboard.
  • Power of a WordPress teacher or class website.
  • Using an SMS system for student reminders and increased workflow.
  • Grading by voice recording and sharing feedback with students and parents by voicemail propagated through email.
  • How to make a simple, quick voice to text reader to use in the classroom or to help kids read texts you assign.
  • Outsourcing your grading.

Teachers, get your time back!

Check back for these and more coming Tips for Teachers, and follow us on Twitter, Vimeo, or Facebook.

Or subscribe to Tips for Teachers here:

 


Some background thoughts on why I’m so concerned about teacher efficiencies

by Michael Bromley, founder and president of School4Schools.com LLC & the A+ Club

Schools throw huge resources at teachers: Learning Management Systems (LMS) , smartboards, software, copy machines, computers… but how many PD days were ever spent learning how to use them, and if there were any, what follow-up support was there?

My ten years of classroom teaching was always tainted by administrative disdain for my time. We were given tools and expected to use them – without real ongoing support on how to actually use them.

For example, if your school provided you with the Microsoft Office Suite, I’m guessing there was never any PD attached to it, much less any serious guidance on how to use it effectively. Just look at how much a business will spend on teaching its professionals how to use Microsoft Office. A quick Bing search yields $2400 a day for training of 12 employees, or a four-day intensive course for $480 per student. Or, what about a $20 per month subscription to Lynda.com? Nope, not for schools. They’ve got too much money to spend on other things and none for your personal efficiencies and time.

Sure, at my school we had a couple demonstrations on a new system (never anything on MS Office, which most teachers thought consists of Word and PowerPoint.)  I was even asked to show other teachers some of my use of technology during a staff meeting or a PD or two.  But there was never any follow-through and no ongoing individual attention to helping teachers use these tools or build efficiencies. (Some of these same administrators even asked me privately to show them some of my tricks.)

Our tech guy knew hardware but wasn’t much help on how to actually use the things as a teacher. The best support we got was from the students helpers who could actually make a sound system or video work. Meanwhile, every time I dropped through the teacher lounge, I’d be asked to show another teacher how to do this or that on the school LMS or some other computer thing.

It’s something about education that its resources are seen through the lens of budgets and allocations, but not actual use.

Here are two stories to demonstrate it

1. When my daughter started attending my school, I was suddenly not just a colleague but a parent.  Now I saw my colleagues” grading habits, their assignment postings, and I heard the good and the bad from my daughter every day on the way home from school.

One of the most shocking things I discovered was how little her teachers used the very basic LMS program, Edline. It was a total waste (such as the teacher who put up assignments but had them repeated every day of the year, including weekends).  Assignments and grades were posted randomly if at all, and so many answers to my questions as a parent that could have been answered through Edline turned into email and hallway chases. And I was in the same building with them every day, so what about the frustrated parents who couldn’t get the answers I could only get through a personal shakedown?

I told our principal and facilities vice principal about my observations and how I personally had to spend minutes  every day that turned into hours every week helping my colleagues do simple things on Edline that nobody had bothered to show them before and how the school should really help its teachers learn how to use the system. The two of them laughed at me. Literally. They laughed, and I walked away.

So it was back to helping my colleagues one at a time and day to day figure out how to easily and meaningfully put up their assignments and grades for students and parents.

2. When my school replaced blackboards with whiteboards,  I purchased my own projector to take advantage of the ready-screen whiteboards represented. The school had one or two projectors that we were always taken, so I got my own. Now my kids had the benefit of my desktop in every class, and I had the benefit of prepping to it rather than hoping I could get one of the other projectors.

A couple years later the school got a donation for smartboard systems that used ceiling-installed projector that interacted with a device attached to the whiteboard.  Cool stuff. They put it in my classroom — yep, and left it at that.

The audio wires weren’t installed properly, and the tech guy couldn’t figure them out. So I bought my own little amplifier and set it up myself. The VCR system just didn’t work right, so I bought all my videos on Amazon and ran them straight from my computer. And so on.

The smartboard system had a magic wand that worked by interacting with a static electric field that was projected across the white board projector area by the attached device. However, the two 8-foot whiteboards were connected by a metal band that ran down the middle of that projector placement. Static-electricity field + metal band = I could only use half the smartboard screen at a time. The kids and I laughed it off every day, but it was a true annoyance that was daily wasting my time and impacting my lessons.

Moving the projector was an option, but I knew that would be difficult as it was a permanent installation in the ceiling. Why not, then, just cut one of the 8-foot whiteboards in half, move the other one to the middle and the two 4-foot pieces to the side? I asked the vice principal of facilities (the one who laughed at my idea for a PD to instruct teachers on how to use Edline) for help. He was furious. How dare I question what the donors had given me! Alright,  whatever.

See horse. See cart. The wrong one is in front.

Here’s the problem: administrators perceive teachers as service providers for the wrong set of clients. Students and families are not their clients, policy, pedagogy and the Department of Education are. If focus were upon students and parents as the real clients, schools would be very, very concerned about every aspect of a teacher’s day, especially how their teachers use their precious time to support their clients. Instead teachers are providers of pedagogy, test results and public policy.

What would I do as an administrator?

Good teachers know who their real clients are.  Everything else is backup and resource for the core aim of teaching.

My dream school is one in which kids truly are first, and in which teachers drive their teaching and not the school. The school’s job would be to support, guide, and help execute what the teachers themselves decided they can do best. Just dreaming here, but isn’t that what we believe we’re supposed to do with kids — and if so why, then, don’t schools approach teachers the same way?

Anything we can do to make a teachers’ day go a little quicker, a classroom a little more productive and effective, and to help along a teaching process or to lessen a frustration, I figure there is at least one kid who learned just a little more that day and one parent who felt good about it.

Yes, it is “all about the kids,” but it’s helping teachers help kids that concerns us. In our A+ Club student support program, we help kids help themselves. Through Tips for Teachers we hope to help teachers help themselves help kids, one efficiency at a time.

– Michael

How teachers can use WordPress blogging to enhance student engagement

Every teacher’s goal is student engagement, both in and out of class

Strong Stuff

Strong Stuff

The more our students act on our lessons and expectations outside of class, the better they function in class. Nothing new there.

And the difficulty to achieve it in part explains the annual Professional Development (PD) flogging with the latest, greatest solution to student engagement: “Differentiated Learning,” “Flipped Classrooms,” “Student-Centered Learning,” “Cooperative Learning,” and so on, that attempt to trick students into suddenly caring about our lessons and classrooms.

I’ve tried them all, and I know you have, too. Continue reading

The Best Computers for College: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac? pt 2

Choosing technology, especially deciding between laptops, desktop, and tablets is not getting any easier.

The reason: they’re getting to be all the same! 

In my post a year ago, College bound: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac?, I analyzed the best bet for your college computer purchase. I hoped that students and parents would weigh carefully between laptops, tablets and desktops, as each has specific advantages and disadvantages. I measured price, utility, usefulness, and durability. Given the number of readers on that post, I’m hoping it has led to one or two more informed purchases. Continue reading

Agenda books and schools: making good little secretaries

agenda-book_msclipartWhy are we teaching kids to use 1970s technology?

Ever hear of Day Timer? Yes, the personal agenda book still exists, but only for a few old school types. Except in schools, where the kids are supposed to use agenda books, and it’s all their damned fault if they don’t.

Seriously. At the A+ Club, we hear from teachers all the time that Johnny “just needs to do what all the other students do and write down the assignments in his agenda book.”

If it were up to me, every kid would have exchange email and  Outlook working seamlessly on their computers, tablets, and phones, and everything they need to do would be posted there automatically. Continue reading

Gone phishing?

Internet-Phishing-Concept-2066328Careful now.

Scary moment this week when I got an email from a very trusted friend with a google docs attachment. Just click on it and load up your email address — and password, of course.

Habits rule, and my fingers starting typing out the email address and passwords. Oops. Spent the next two hours changing all my login passcodes. Continue reading

online tutoring

“Roam schooling” & online tutoring: learning without barriers?

globe_learningIs online tutoring & digital learning really going to work?

Fluff or substance? Revolution or fad? Where is online tutoring and digital learning going to take us?

When I was in K-12 school in the 1970s, mostly, education was being turned over. The students had no idea, as it was just happening to us. But what is education today was largely defined by the research, theories, experiments, and, mostly, fads of that period. Continue reading

Forecast cloudy

clouds-cartoon_MC900432591

Alright, I did it. I moved to the cloud. All of my working files now float upon the ether.

In my case it’s Skydrive with 75 gig for documents and photos. I have 25 gig personal and another 50 gig for business. I haven’t moved my music collection there yet, although that’s probably going soon, although with 90 gig of music, I’m not sure I want to pay for it.

Meanwhile, my desktop has a 1.5 Terrabyte drive, which is standard these days. So why am I on the cloud?

It’s all about syncing and sharing

I can now access all the same data on my phone, my laptop, my tablet, and my desktop. I no longer have to go running to the one file that’s on one machine. Moreover, from the Cloud I can choose to share anything with anyone. No more clogging up emails with huge attachments, no more flash drives that I’ll just lose. This is cool stuff.explorer-skydrive_screenshot

I use Skydrive because it integrates seamlessly with my Windows explorer, which I use to manage all my documents. You can see in this screenshot how my Window Explorer program treats Skydrive as if it was just another folder in my computer. I can move, copy, open, search, etc., all the regular functions

Do note the bottom indicator, “available online only” — for that’s the risk we take by riding the Cloud. More on that in a moment.

Cloud storage is NOT a backup system (for that see Carbonite, among others). With Cloud storage, such as Skydrive, if you delete a file on one device, it will delete across all devices, since you are actually managing files on Skydrive and not your local machine. However, Skydrive puts all deleted items into the Recycle Bin in order to retrieve it if you need a deleted file back.  If you are using Win 8, FileHistory will backup your Skydrive files automatically. Be sure to enable this function.

Offline issues

If you know you will be offline, you can download your Skydrive files easily from the skydrive.com site. Click the files or directories you want, and right click and select “download.” Multiple files will be placed into a single zip archive which you can put wherever you want. If you have regular, automated backups, you can always access those files through the backup system if you can’t get online. These solutions are hardly ever needed.

Working, open files are actually managed on the local machine, so if you know you will need a large file where you won’t have good internet access, just open it on your machine and take it with you. You will work with a cached version, and it will sync properly when you’re back online. What I do is open the files I know I will need and go from there.

Other Systems

Applie has iCloud, Google has its Drive, and there are other 3rd party solutions, such as DropBox (see here for comparison and here for Microsoft’s comparison). My preference, when using a Windows machine or MS Office on another operating system, is to stick to the Microsoft products, as they always integrate better with Office and the core Windows functions.

Will you ride the Cloud, too?

I’m afraid you will, if eventually. You probably are already up there with your cell phone to one degree or another, or if you use Kindle, Amazon, or Netflix. Netflix is essentially cloud management of movies, and it works beautifully so long as you keep up your account. As I wrote earlier about software makers pushing users from ownership to rental, the same thing is happening with the Cloud. It’s not a bad thing — the advantages are overwhelming, especially as we all start to use more and different devices for the same things (emails, photos, documents, etc.). But it will cost. Most Cloud services give away a good amount of initial storage, say 5 or 10 gig (Skydrive gave 25gig to Win 8 users), but you will need more, and it will cost.

Be ready for it, that’s all I can say. I don’t see the need to sync all my music across all devices, so I just move my playlists to the Cloud and keep the bulk of what I don’t usually listen to on m desktop and backups. Xbox, btw, has excellent sharing features across devices of locally stored music. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it’s worth a look.

While the Cloud is here, don’t short PC hard drive makers such as Seagate (all time stock high) yet. PC and laptop sales are down, but they’re not going away. And, somebody’s got to store all the Cloud data on huge machines that Seagate will make. The Cloud means more data storage not less, more functionality, not less.

As always, let me know your questions and thoughts.

– Michael

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.