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Thursday, June 30, 2011

iPad review

For the last year, I used an iPad as part of my work at school. In the end, I actually think it is the iPad 2, and any future upgraded versions, that will actually be able to be of use in the classroom.

The most significant issue with the use of the original iPad in the classroom is its inability to mirror the display, a problem that it should be of note that Apple has fixed with the iPad 2. This lack of mirroring meant that that many of the interesting educational apps that were produced for the iPad over the past few years were far less useful than they would have been had I been able to actually to use them in class by projecting them through the SmartBoard. The ability to mirror on the newer generations of the iPad will greatly expand the usefulness of the device in the classroom.

The other issue of note with the iPad is its lack of Adobe Flash capabilities. An increasing number of publishers are making much less expensive electronic versions of their textbooks, but some of those textbooks require flash. Steve Jobs has said on more than one occasion that he has no plan to ever put Flash on the iPad, so there will continue to be both websites and textbooks that cannot be used on the device

A clear benefit of the iPad is the ability for both teachers and students to greatly reduce the number of textbooks needing to be carried on a daily basis. I was able to put all of my textbooks, as well as supplementary texts, onto my iPad through the purchase of eBooks from publishers and/or the Kindle or iBook apps. The only exception was my US History textbook that necessitated the use of Flash [see aforementioned Flash issue]. Some publishers are also making a free copy of an electronic textbook available with each purchase of the paper text. One could also certainly argue that it is a lot harder to ever forget your book for class if all of your books are just one device that you have to grab.

A drawback to use the use of eBooks, however, is the inability to make margin notes; most of the books allowed for highlighting, but not writing in the text. Additionally, there are sometimes differences in pagination between electronic and paper texts, and so if both versions are being used in classroom, page numbers to use as reference points may not match.

The feature of the iPad that I found the most useful was the ability to save handwritten notes. I greatly prefer to handwrite my notes to typing them, and using the Evernote application, I was able to take notes in meetings that would be automatically saved and dated for easy access later. For students [or adults!] struggling with organization, note-taking applications could be of great use.

The iPad is fun, nearly effortless to transport, and makes both carrying and organizing notes and textbooks easy. An interesting idea for the future might be to have an entire classroom pilot the use of the iPad to fully test its usefulness as an educational device. For me, the iPad certainly saved me time, money and effort in a myriad of ways, but I cannot quite support Apple’s early claims that it is the educational wave of the future.

By Nia Hays

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Exercise your brain this summer with AGoogleADay

Every day Google posts AGoogleADay- a daily puzzle for you to solve using your creativity and search skills using Google search, images, calculator, maps, etc. The problems usually involve 2-4 steps and can be solved within minutes. There is no right way to solve them, but there is always only 1 correct answer. Take a few minutes and exercise your brain this summer, or use the puzzles as fun, quick challenges in your classroom next fall.

Why not try one today? A Google A Day keeps the summer boredom away...

Google has also created "Deja Google," a wormhole-inspired time machine that searches the Internet as it existed before the puzzle was posted online. This way, your search for the answer won't result in anyone else's blog post containing their answer or how they discovered it, spoiling all your fun.

P.S. Thanks to Svetlana for finding this fun game to keep us entertained!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beginning to Understand Technology

While it is fantastic to innovate the classroom via technology with new gadgets, sometimes it is also good to re-establish roots and understanding of all the technology already available.

In this vein of thought, the Diigo Education Group focused on the article: Technology 101 by ProfHacker, a website under the purview of The Chronicle of Higher Education. First, they mention ThatCamp (link here: This is an "unconference" which is held every year at the Center for History and New Media from 2008 through to the present. The topic of this year's conference contained a theme of "back to basics".

This return to understanding the basics of technology includes such gems as Google's Teach Parents Tech Form (one can only send 12 videos at a time; however, the videos are available on the site) and focus on the importance of building a foundation to facilitate utilizing technology with greater ease. The ability to use technology is important not only for the ability to actually use one's phone, but it is important for teachers in order to better integrate technology with the classroom.

Items that some people take for granted, such as copy/paste may seem too "beginner" for some, but it is important to know. Are there keyboard commands to do copy and paste? (The answer is "yes".) What about passwords? Is your password secure? (If the password is a sequential string of numbers like "12345678" probably not.) A password is important because even if your security software that protects all internet interactions is top-notch, if your lock is the equivalent of a piece of yarn then it negates the security. Can you search the internet? (If the only bookmarks in the browser are links that a friend sent, the answer is probably "no".) How do you turn off that annoying spell check? (The alternative question is how to turn it back on after one too many homophones slip by.) How do I know a link goes to the same place the face of it tells me? (Hint: hover your mouse over the link, but do not click! You can read the address of the place it is attempting to send you.)

Hopefully, the link to Technology 101 article (posted again here for your convenience: ) will help answer these questions and help give a solid foundation in the basics to all who read it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

6th graders create Internet Safety games for 4th graders

Over the course of the past year our 6th graders have been discussing Internet Safety topics including private identity information, chatting online, copyright law, email etiquette, cyberbullying, and digital footprints. They recently shared some of their knowledge with our current 4th graders through movies, PowerPoint presentations and jeopardy games, and scratch projects. Their final scratch projects, as well as some practice ones they created earlier this year, are posted online in a virtual gallery. Check them out!