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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Computer Labs are made wrong. Here’s why:

Attention:

Get rid of rows of computers in your school!!

How many schools have you been to where the computer labs are a room full of 20-30 computers lined up in rows around a the room?

Lots?

Me too.

This is old school thinking and it’s wrong.  A computer lab should not be row upon row of computers. There is no need. We have wifi and students have laptops of their own (or they should).

More and more forward-thinking schools are implementing laptop programs.  If this is the case, get rid of the desktops. Put them in the library or put two or three computers in each classroom.  Donate them to the office staff or the underprivileged school down the road.  Be more savvy when you invest the money into technology.

Proof:

“Results confirm the hypotheses that [students] seated in circles engage in significantly more on-task behavior than those in rows and that [student] seated in clusters engage in more on-task behavior than those in rows but less than those in circles.” http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1985-18658-001

Yet most computer classrooms in schools still have row upon row.  The desktop computer no longer needs to be the standard.  The laptop, the tablet and the smart phone are smaller, useful technologies that need to be employed effectively.

Computer classroom designers might take a look at leaders in the field, Google’s and Facebook’s headquarters, to see what fun engaging design looks like:

GOOGLE

     

images from http://www.reactorr.com/blog/index.php/2009/08/google-land/

FACEBOOK

images from: http://freshome.com/2009/10/15/facebook-headquarters-in-california/

I wish schools I have seen or worked at looked fun like this.

Strategy:

Then what should the computer classroom of 2011 and beyond be?

  • Outdoors – Why limit the confines of classroom learning to a classroom?  Get kids outside experiencing and doing, with tablets and cellphones connected to the internet as supporting reference tools or better yet as creation tools for capturing, writing about, drawing and much more.  Take students on trips to the mall, the store, the field, behind the school, the cafeteria, and nature. Read more about outdoor classrooms here.
  • If educators have to works indoors, two words: Beanbag chairs (Swiss balls could also work– They are lightweight, movable workstations.  Put electric/data ports for charging and connectivity throughout the floor of EVERY classroom and put lots on the walls. (At least until they mass market wireless electricity)
  • Group centers and Circles can easily be formed by the teacher for collaborative physical meeting points.
  • With the new-found money in the budget, invest in specialized media centers: graphics tablets, video raid systems, video greenscreens, music stations and studios with sound editing capabilities. Computers aren’t just for using the Microsoft products.  Start thinking about how the other subjects like art, drama, phys ed, and science can be using them.
  • Fitness rooms with setups to place tablets are a must.  Make sure you have speakers to plug those iPods into.
  • iPads and iMovie are a must for drama class and why not for the sports field.
  • Wacom tablets are a new must for art class which can now also be called Digital Design class.
Administrators and educators:
Think outside the box.  Redefine the computer classroom.  Think Engaging. Think Useful. Think Fun! Invest more in your wifi.  
Good luck with the future.
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2 Reasons why I love Infographics

Attention: 

If you don’t know what infographics are, it’s about time you learned.

If you are a teacher and you don’t know what these are, it’s about time you started getting your students to use and create them. 

Infographics, also known as information graphics are: The picture worth more than a thousand words¹.

Wikipedia presently states an infographic is a “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge’.

But why are they important to harness and use?

Proof:

You have probably come across a few infographics in your life: Subway route systems, weather maps, and even the common red octagonal stop sign, which is a simple form of an infographic.  Below, I have listed the importance and reasons why I love infographics:

  • Graphics are universal, meaning they are easily understood across cultures.
    If you have traveled to a non-English-speaking country, think of a time you have tried to read signs to figure out what they mean.  If you were in a Spanish-speaking country this was possibly easier than if you were in China or Thailand where not only the words, but also the script is completely unintelligible to you.  However, many of these countries have used the idea of infographics to convey meaning to those who need it.  Think of the red octagonal sign with the gibberish script on it.  Placed at a corner, an English-speaking driver of a car still should inherently know to stop.  Just as they might understand the squiggly lines on a yellow sign might mean a curvy road up ahead.  The graphic does more for the international user than any word in any language ever could.
  • Complex information is displayed visually to appeal to this type of intelligence.
    Howard Gardner explains those having Spacial/Visual intelligences as “having visual and spatial perception.  [They are able to] interpret and create visual images.  [They have] pictorial imagination and expression [and] understand relationship[s] between images and meanings, and between space and effect.” http://www.businessballs.com/howardgardnermultipleintelligences.htm
    I feel this is my primary type of intelligence.

We understand why we might want to use or create infographics and for who, but how?

Strategy:

  1. Determine topic of the infographic.
  2. Research data needed to display.
  3. Decide on color scheme.
  4. Design infographic and keep it simple.
  5. Try: Graphs, Timelines, Flowcharts, Size Comparisons, Venn Diagrams, Annotated Pictures and Maps
  6. To create graphics use:

Go Beyond: Use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, 3D Studio Max or any free available graphic design software like:

Find more graphic design tools at snap2objects blog here.
See a step-by-step guide to creating an infographic using Adobe Illustrator here at vector.tutsplus.com
See a few website examples of infographics here, here, here, and here.

¹ Coined by Thomas Adam Johnson Monday, June 13th, 2011

 

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Sneak Peak: End of the Year Video

Attention: 

For those of you who would like a sneak peek at the end of the year video I made for the MYP kids at Concordian International School, this blog post is the embedded video and link to it.

Proof:

 

Strategy:

Want to make one yourself?

  • Subscribe to Animoto
  • Upload, or choose pics/video from your computer or even Facebook
  • Choose some music – Animoto has lots of nice stuff, but you can upload your own
  • Choose the theme and transitions
  • If you would like longer than 30 second videos, you need to pay $5.00
  • Download high quality videos for $3.00 per video
  • Use Freemake Video Converter to edit, change formats, and add images

I was using Adobe Premier, but with all its bells and whistles I wanted to use something a lot simpler.  Freemake definitely does everything I needed and the quality seemed better than what Adobe was giving me.  Freemake feels like early versions of iMovie that were easy to use with an easy learning curve.  Try it yourself to see what I mean.  Good luck and happy video making.

  • A great plugin for Firefox is called netvideohunter which allows you to download videos directly from Facebook, Youtube and many other sites.
 

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If you are a teacher this is how your Facebook settings should be

Attention:

Facebook needs the default privacy settings I have listed below.

Aside to this fact, I have an ongoing argument with a good friend of mine about teachers adding students to their Facebook accounts.  My friend feels teachers should not add students because students might see something not meant for them.

I am this wary about anything I put on to the internet.  As an educator I do not want anything on the world-wide web from or about me that is anything less than professional.  Why are the comments, photos or other things I put on to Facebook any different?

Essentially, if someone who I added as a friend wanted to place my images or text in some other forum they could easily do so.  No one should consider Facebook a secure environment to treat as a secret diary.

Nonetheless, there are some major uses for Facebook in education.

Proof:

Patrick Batty has this to say about Facebook in education:

[M]any students, instructors and administrators are using a number of Facebook applications for a wide variety of academic purposes.

Recently we’ve been examining a number of Facebook apps that are relevant for educational use. We’ve assembled a small list of 20 facebook apps here and are happy to have others add additional apps to the list that you’ve found helpful.

  • Books iRead: Share the books you’re reading, and see what others think of books with this application.
  • Flashcards: With this application, you can create flash cards to help you study on Facebook.
  • SkoolPool: Get the lowdown on schools, online and otherwise, with this neat application.
  • Rate My Professors: Find out what other students think of professors before you register for their class.
  • BookTag: This app offers a great way to share and loan books out to students, plus create helpful quizzes for studying.
  • DoResearch4me: This app makes it easy to gather information using your thesis statement, instructions, and more.
  • Mathematical Formulas: Distribute formulas, solutions, and more with this application.
  • SlideShare: Create presentations to send to students with this slideshow application.
  • Calendar: This calendar app from 30 Boxes lets you organize your days, set reminders and share your calendar with others.
  • To-Do List: Stay on top of your tasks with this Facebook to-do application.
  • Zoho Online Office: You can keep all of your documents online, and even share them with classmates, students, and colleagues.
  • UdutuTeach: UdutuTeach allows you to import courses from myUdutu (a course authoring tool) manage which people can take your courses, and track the learners’ progress.
  • UdutuLearn: UdutuLearn lets you view courses that you have been given access to and shows your progress.
  • Courses: Courses offers loads of functionality for online education, with features that let you add your courses, post announcements and assignments, search university reviews find classmates, create discussions and form study groups.
  • Files: Powered by Box.net, this application makes it easy to store and retrieve documents in Facebook, so you can access them anywhere you have a connection.
  • WorldCat: Use WorldCat to do research, catalog your library’s collection, and share information with students.
  • HeyMath!: These mini-movies explain difficult math concepts, so these are great to share with students or use on your own.
  • Study Groups: Get everyone together on your group project by collaborating with this application.

Caroline Lego Muñoz of Fairleigh Dickinson University states, “Facebook is equipped with bulletin boards, instant messaging, email, and the ability to post videos and pictures. Most notably, anyone can post information and collaborate within the system. Recently, Facebook has opened up development of downloadable applications, which can further supplement the educational functions of Facebook.” in the essay, Opening Facebook: How to Use Facebook in the College Classroom.

I try to take the early adoption technique about new technologies and implementation of such.  If you want to as well, try the following.

Strategy:

Follow these 19 steps.  This will take 1/2 hour to an hour.

  • Choose Privacy Settings in the top-right corner, like you see in the picture below.

  • Click on View Settings

  • Change the Search for you on Facebook setting if you do not want everyone to find you
  • Definitely change the See your friends list.  I set mine solely to myself.
    [Side-note: Last night, at a staff party, a colleague of mine was wondering why students I had added as friends were not trying to add her.  She said the students all asked if she was on Facebook, as they wanted to add her.  She thought the students were a little slow, but then I mentioned I don’t allow others to see my friends list.  She thanked me.]

  • After you have changed those settings, go Back to Privacy

  • Choose Customize Settings

  • Assuming you consider what you write when you post, you shouldn’t need to limit the Posts by me for your friends – who may be students.
  • Consider your Relationships, Interested In, and Religious and political views as private
  • Take note: You can edit Privacy Settings for Photo Albums and Videos here

  • When you Edit privacy settings for photo albums, you have the options seen below.
  • If you only want specific people to see, choose Customize

IMPORTANT:
You want to limit what others post about you

  • Choose Edit Settings for:
  • Photos and Videos you’re tagged in
  • Can see wall posts by friends, and
  • Friends can check me in to places (You never know where someone might check you in)

  • Choose Customize

  • Choose Specific People
  • This will take a while – You need to go through your friends list and choose who can see.  I usually start typing “a” and Facebook auto-completes with friends with an “a” in their name.  Then I type “b”, then “c”, and so on, up to “z”.

Good luck.  Report back if you think I missed something or if you would do it differently.  Cheers.

 

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