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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Is your website fitting iPhones, iPads and computers?

Are you taking into account that people have one and possibly even all of the following devices?  iPhones, iPads, and Computers.  If so, you need to see for yourself what your site looks like on them.

I just looked at my site on my new iPad2 (woot woot) and found out that my formatted table columns at width 600 pixels needed to be changed to 100%, along with the square images being brought from 200 pixels down to 150 pixels for them to fit properly.

In order for the site to load nicely on the iPhone there is a plugin for WordPress called WPTouch found here.

At the present moment Skype for iPad is just an iPhone version enlarged 2x and then pixelated.  It bugs me.  Skype: Do Something!

Mint.com is supposed to have a beautiful little gadget for iPhone, but for the iPad: No such luck.  Get with it!

Some items I have found for the iPad that I am really enjoying are listed in an article here.

Back to my original thesis, designers need to concern themselves with every and all gadgets out there.  We used to be concerned mostly with one browser to the next, one operating system to the next, but now we are concerned with all sorts of viewing sizes.  The main ones are the smart-phones, the tablets, and the notebooks, aka – the 3:1

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Search beyond Google. Wonderwheel and more

I do it.

My students do it.

We all do it.

We GOOGLE IT!

The easiest thing these days is to find an answer.

But is the answer always the best answer?

How many of you have gone beyond the first, second or third page in search results in Google?

How many have used tools like:

  • Google Scholar (for articles, legal opinions and journals)
  • Google Books (find whole books, partial excerpts, etc)
  • Google Finance (find stock quotes)
  • XE.com (for exchange rates of currencies and precious metals)
  • Survey Monkey | Survey Gizmo (for creating your own surveys)
  • ERIC (digital library of education literature)
  • OEDB.org (free online classes)
  • TeacherTube.com
  • IMDB.com (International Movie Database)
  • Youtube.com (many free online tutorials | courses these days)
  • the library
  • an expert
  • Google WonderWheel (as seen above) Wonder wheel How-to.pdf [Presently, Google Wonder Wheel seems to no longer exist.  I hope the people at Google bring this option back.  For now, check out Google Image Swirl, another similar product, only for images]

This is not an exhaustive list of tools-beyond-Google, but it is a list I presently use as part of criterion for my students to gather information in preparation for a project.  I recommend you, as an educator, employ these techniques and others as well.  Google is great, but it doesn’t always have the best answer.

For a great interactive graphic that demonstrates: Google Tools to support Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

 
 

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Aesthetic vs content vs usability of websites

I’ve been designing websites for quite a while now and have gone through the same process I find many of my students go through.

The first consideration always seems to be about aesthetic.

  • What does it look like?
  • Is it pretty?

But this is not enough, beyond this content becomes a factor.

  • What is in the site?
  • Are there gadgets?
  • Are there games or things to keep people occupied and possibly even coming back? Included in content and leading to the next point is image size.
  • Are the images made small enough so that they will download without problem?
  • Are videos and music files resized properly to stream and download on slow connections?

The final consideration and one the I look at mostly now is usability.

  • Is there a search function built in to the site or am I using an archaic sitemap?
  • Does the site load well?
  • Does it have an unnecessary Flash page?
  • Does it have unnecessary Flash, animations, sound, hard to read fonts or bad use of colors?
  • Are the buttons available in the same place on every page?
  • Are they buttons logical or could they be grouped better?
  • Is the content linked to itself and easy to find?
  • Do the pages have continuity beyond the buttons?
  • Is the site filled up? (for example, the site has been launched but you find placeholder text, “This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information…”
  • Is the site updated or stagnant? Will I come back to it?
  • Is the site useful or interesting?

As a design I need to consider other things like:

  • Is there good support from the site administrators?
  • Is the site upgradable/adaptable to my needs?
  • How easy is content addition/updating?
  • Is it going to search rank well without outside factors?
 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Design, Technology

 

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Online collaboration tools

I am always looking for online collaboration tools. I found this excellent consolidation of sites out there. Check out this awesome post by Robin Goods:

www.mindmeister.com

 

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Tech trends in school

Technology changes faster than we can blink an eye. That said, these are a couple things I have been reading about or think will become trends in schools in the near future:

  • Web-based instruction – The PhD I will start in the near future is specifically about web-based instruction.  Whether it is through Youtube videos in which kids are learning how to play the guitar, Facebook groups where students are chatting about math, any of the online collaboration tools I reference in another post, or through school homework sites that are built using Nings, Moodle or any of the numerous other CMS available, online is not about to go away.  It has so many advantages.
  1. For example, school closures no longer mean the need to make up days lost, because lessons can continue on through online systems that are in place.
  2. Kids who are sick can also continue on with their studies following regular updates about class lectures and homework that is expected.
  3. Kids and adults who are in remote places have access to schooling systems they would never normally have access to.
  4. People can choose huge varieties of courses that interest them.
  5. Settings of learning are semi-traditional or purely non-traditional.
  6. Learning times are less regulated, as the web is “on” 24 hours a day.
  • Cloud Computing – First of all, what is it?  From my understanding “Cloud Computing” means that programs and areas for hosting information are no longer hosted on the local computer.  For example, Google Docs is an prime example of cloud computing because every document is created and stored online.  The advantages to this system:
  1. It means that documents are available across a variety of platforms
  2. Documents are backed up with no fear of computers breaking down and all information is lost
  3. Multiple people have access to the same document at the same time.
  4. Permissions can be set in place by the owner of the document for read-only or read-write privileges.
  5. Usually zero cost is involved, which means that money can be spent on hardware rather than software solutions.
  6. Documents can be accessed anywhere, at any time.  If you are on vacation and you remember you need to print that file out, you can just pop over to the internet cafe and you have access to it without a flash-drive or CD to carry and worry about.
  • Mobile devices in classrooms – The sentiment among principals and administration in the past has always seemed to be: NO.  There is no need for mobile devices in classrooms.  However, these days I would argue there is great need for mobile devices in classrooms.  iPads, iPhones, Tablets, Slates, and even iPods are all finding there way into the education process.  What needs to be taking place more regularly is professional development for teachers about ways that these devices can cleverly be introduced into lessons.  The idea of 1:1 is already becoming outdated, as I talk about in this article.

The schools that “get it” will be the ones that stay ahead of the tech curve. “As educators, we really need to stay on top of this stuff,” said Roland Rios, director of instructional technology at the Fort Sam Houston Independent School District in San Antonio, TX, “instead of constantly playing catch up.”

  • Technology based assessment and monitoring tools – There are systems configured to record every keystroke that is ever pressed by students and coworkers.  There are systems like Faronics Insight to monitor screens of students in classrooms or public spaces like libraries.  But this idea is to enable even better surveying for student learning.  For example, ‘clickers’ for students are taken a step further with the idea that every students has an iPhone and sends in the answer to the questions that are presented.  Results can be recorded, tabulated and graphed.  Constant student assessment is enabled using technology.  The shy, quiet kids no longer get to recess into the backs of the classes.  Everyone is invited to join in on the learning, conversations and assessment.
  • Professional Development – Because technology is growing at such an unfathomable pace, teachers and educators alike need to be on the cusp of it in order to stay abreast of what is out there.  In order to do so, constant professional development has to be taking place.
  1. This can be in the form of a traditional classroom setting, an informal setting at home where educators are staying in the loop by accessing websites, blogs and other learning arenas.
  2. It can also come as it is with teachers learning from students and also allowing students to teach other students about their learned knowledge.
  3. Parents as well need to stay in this loop and educational foundations need to realize what they are and embrace this faction of their population.
 

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Great Primary ICT ideas

Just sat in a little meeting about some ideas for tech in the PYP.  These were some of the things that were shared:

Managing blogs:

  • Schools need to set a minimum amount per week for teachers.  The general consensus seemed to be at least once or twice a week.  This way no one in the set was looking like an outlier (bad compared to others)
  • Consent forms for student photos are needed if they are to be used on the blog.
  • The idea of an after-school bloggers club came up.  Some teachers were pursuing this.

Traffic light system:

  • This is a neat and simple idea for students to self assess along with teachers:
  • Red – Student cannot do it
  • Yellow – Student can do with help
  • Green – Student can do this by them self

Using PowerPoint in new ways

  • Students take screen-shots using a program to show progress and incorporate it into the slide-show
  • Students add arrows and text to explain what they have done
  • Students use the PowerPoint presentation to explain what has been done to others

A resources that was mentioned to stay away from was:

  • epals – it was mentioned to be rubbish – not updated and not accessible

Good resources were:

 
 

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What’s at Techex 2011

Intended for the average teacher, rather than just the nerds (like me).  Ian Jukes will be the key-note speaker talking about learning as a digital native at TechEx, an exciting conference that I will unhappily not be able to attend.  Ideas for the conference are listed below:

  • The Facebook debate will be a drama contesting and supporting the notions behind this social network
  • 21st Century Learning ideas – 2 minute ideas about lots and lots of different things – with free prizes from sponsors
  • Big building with neat TedTalk – and discussions
  • Flip Thinking- Let’s rethink the idea of homework – Are kids doing the hard stuff at home and the easy stuff in school?
  • iPads and Slates – Sharing of ideas about them – Should 1:1s be switching to these?
  • Hy Tek Software – for use with physical activities
  • Blogs – Student blogs and links to the outside world – How are schools using these properly?
  • One-Note – A Fantastic collaborative tool to be discussed
  • The Perfect School and how it should look
  • 3D World
  • Moodle
  • Intelligently Searching the Search Engines – Searching Twitter, Subscription Databases

John Tratner asked groups at the ISTEC meeting to ask for some of the things that we would like to see.  We came up with these ideas:

  • Inspirational Moodle stuff – courses or styles of courses (innovative ways to use it)
  • Ways that Classroom teachers are using tech beyond the tech teacher
  • How Chrome OS fits into education
  • Google apps and Google Docs – How are they using it
  • Bookmark synching methods
  • Giver (for sharing files) – Linux-based
  • Introducing Lino-It
  • Online Storage – DropBox – Boxnet
  • Using Freecorder – For downloading video, sound from computer and converting files
 

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