How many documents do you have open to the public? When was the last time you checked to see what anyone with internet access could download from your school website, your PowerSchool or SIS public folder, or even your various cloud services?
Before you think I am wasting your time, here is a quick glimpse of a simple public search for budgets people have not secured:
If the above animation is not clear, don’t worry. I will show you how to do it.
INURL and FileType
Google has some cool advanced search features. To scan your public files, the two I recommend are “inurl:” and “filetype:” .
For example when copying and pasting the following string into Google, inurl:saschina.org filetype:pdf , the results are all public PDF files that exist with any url that contains saschina.org.
Keeping the url simple often yields more results. For example, using saschina would look at other domains. If you add the .org, then the search will be limited to the .org domain only.
When to Worry about Public Documents
First off, many documents are supposed to be public. Seeing documents in this type of search is normal and excepted. What is not usually expected are documents that contain:
Name associated with contact information
Names of parents, donors, etc.
Special codes use to tell vendors/suppliers who has organizational authority to place orders
Usernames and Passwords
Documents with information similar to the above should be secured, unless required to be public for legal reasons.
I would suggest having document ID numbers in the footer that indicated a document should be public. This simple practice would allow everyone in the organization to report documents that should not be public.
The link below will take you to a page that will help you begin checking your online resources.
Stress at the start of the school year is normal. I firmly believe that a positive start leads to a positive year. Here are some suggestions I like to give to people at the start of the year.
What do you need to start the school year?
Students. Teachers. And a place for them to meet. Many of the things people stress about are not required to actually start the school year. Remember, not everything can be the most important. If everything is critical, and everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
No, really, what do you need to start the school year?
Here is a core checklist for the school start-up:
A roster of students who should be attending
A roster of students who left, to make certain they do not return without re-enrollment
Schedules (or at least a plan for the first week while scheduling is being sorted)
Lunch planning needs to be sorted and should be running smoothly; food is important; the communal time is important
Two to three weeks of lesson plans that can be executed with the resources from the previous year
Buddies for new staff, with a simple schedule to keep them connected and interacting
Short meetings scheduled to touch base on facilities issues; administrators should take the issues down and get everyone back to work
If the technology is being unreliable, remove layers of complexity, and simply give people access to the internet; new management protocols and summer updates can take weeks to sort out
Keep students connecting socially, and offline; build community first and the curriculum will be easier to deliver
Consider Staying Offline for a Few Days
For students under USA grade level 3, I would keep them offline for 2-3 weeks. Focus on social interactivity, building a relationship with their teachers, and learning how everything works within the learning environment.
For students in who are USA grade levels 3 -5 and middle school grades 6-8, I would keep them offline for at least a week. I would make sure they do a full review of the school’s AUP and Digital Citizenship program.
High school students in USA grade levels 12 and 11 should be the main focus of IT for the first two days of school. Grades 9-10 can wait. Once the upper grade technology is sorted, move down to 9-10. Remember, high school students are flexible, and they can meet IT for support in varying intervals. High school should be all online within the first four days of school.
The Big Bang is Not Good for Stress
The Big Bang Implementation Approach (big bang), is something schools tend to do annually. Basically, they try to do everything for everyone at once. For example, connecting all BYOD devices K-12 in one day. Think about who needs access, and when they need it. Consider the curriculum. What percentage of a grade level’s content is only available with a device in hand? Do the higher percentages first, and the rest later following a steady pace.
Communicate the planning to everyone. Take a breath. And keep the school start steady, positive, and peaceful.
We are back! I know that 166 is not published yet but we are working on some sound issues. In this episode, we tackle scheduling advice, we also talk about the SIM card swap nightmare a journalist had, ambient privacy (neat concept) and finally about the fad of being depressed online. Check out the show notes below and as always subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.
This is a pretty meaty topic so hang on. An interactive whiteboard (IWB), or interactive flat panel, is basically a large TV that ranges 55“ – 88” (139cm – 224cm) that has touch capabilities. They usually come loaded with an Android OS or Windows 10 (some can even swap between the two) and most are priced very similarly to each other. That last fact is what makes it a bit difficult to chose, because there are A LOT of companies who are in this space. I’ve looked at mu fair share of these and I’m not here to talk about specific brands but to examine the characteristics and features that we looked for.
For us we are looking to purchase one interactive whiteboard for our library. Our teachers do not want these to replace their traditional whiteboards and markers (in fact, when we were demoing different units this was a fear from some teachers).
Here we go!
I heard this from more than one vendor. The actual screen and hardware that powers it is nearly the same across all brands. There are only 2–3 companies that make these screens and then they sell them to other companies who put their specific hardware, casing, speakers, cart on it. This is why most of them are priced so closely to one another. So if a vendor says, well our 4K display is much, much better than that 4K display just look past that fact and focus more on how it works and what it can do. However, I will say that all the 4K displays looked stunning – regardless of brand.
Whiteboarding and Annotation
This turned out to be one of the most important features for our teachers. All the interactive whiteboards (IWB) can … well, whiteboard. They all had their own proprietary app that basically brought up a white screen that you could draw or write on with your finger or a pen. They all had fairly accurate and pretty responsive and lines, objects and words all showed up where you expected them to show up as you drew them. This was pretty universal and a good sign that touch has come a long way in the last ten years.
Getting the workspace off the whiteboard and onto a computer or cloud service was a big question. It is great that you can illustrate, model or brainstorm on this beautiful screen but how can you then save that and then share it with your students? One we looked at had us save it to a folder on the device itself, then you would have to open up Google Drive (Edmodo, Google Classroom, Office 365 – whatever service you would like) and then add it and share it from that service. Not bad but not easy.
Another IWB we looked at actually logged you into your cloud service of choice and you could save it to a folder automatically. This was much better and less cumbersome.
Also, teachers wanted to be able to annotate on web pages. All the boards offered this in one way or another. One board let you activate the annotation tools and you could then annotate right on the webpage without leaving the browser. You could then save that annotation or discard it right from a floating toolbar. Once that was done the toolbar disappeared and you could continue browsing.
Another IWB actually took a screenshot, loaded the screenshot into the whiteboarding app and you could annotate from there. Clunky.
All of our options had the ability to also do screen recording but again, some where better than others and sometimes finding that recording was not as intuitive as it should be. All in all, from a teacher perspective the whiteboarding and annotating features turned out to be the most important feature.
Operating System and Apps
I mentioned that the boards we looked at had different operating systems but they all boiled down to Windows 10 and Android. Here is what we found. With Windows 10 – it is a fully functional computer. Whatever you can install on a regular PC you can most likely install on the IWB. This is good and certainly a characteristic that was important to consider even though our teachers use Macbook Airs. Having the ability to launch an app without having to log into a website was very appealing. The Android IWB we looked at had varying amounts of apps that we could install. None of them had the actual Google Play Store meaning we would have to sideload the app and then there was no guarantee that it would work.
A teacher pointed out to me that if they wanted a particular program to be running, they would hook up their computer or connect wirelessly via Apple TV (which our school would provide) so the importance of apps on the whiteboard was not a deal breaker for us and probably shouldn’t be for you either.
Many of the IWBs would allow you to swap out the computer for another. This may be very handy if you have a fleet (one in every classroom). You could have a warm spare ready to deploy incase something happened to a particular board. Once swapped out, the technology team could take the bad one back and try to repair it and get it ready for another swap. Of course, the data on that damaged computer would most likely be lost – so save in the cloud folks!
Connecting other devices
All the IWBs we looked at could connect multiple devices to it. Usually via an HDMI cable. They also contained a USB B port as well that you could connect to your computer. What this would do would show your computer’s screen on the IWB and allow you to interact it with via touching the whiteboard. This worked pretty well for all but one thing to keep in mind is that gestures do NOT work with this interface. I could not use two fingers to scroll a webpage for example or tap two fingers on a file to bring up options. This seemed to be true for all we tried.
We tried an Apple TV and it worked fine. No touch but this was to be expected. We also tried an AirTame and it worked fine as well but again no touch capabilites.
This is more for me than the teacher or others on the tech team. I expect that this device should be able to pump out enough sound that a class of 20–30 students should easily be able to hear. Each IWB had their own built in speakers but some were better than others. One IWB we tried sounded as though the speakers were inside a protective casing. The sound was tinny and a little muffled and definitely not very loud.
All of them did allow for external speakers and all could also the mounting of a soundbar or side speakers, but that is an extra cost and I’ve seen some “mounted” speakers onto IWBs that look like they could fall off with a bump.
Multiple users & Licenses
Some of the IWB were clearly made for a few users. Since this particular board will be living in our library for any teacher to use with her/his class, then we needed to make sure that multiple people could easily switch from one account to another, so this was an important factor for us. If every classroom is getting one, then maybe not so much for you or your school but it is something to keep in mind.
Also, do you need to purchase a license every year to continue to use the board. Some boards have their own proprietary software that requires a yearly license. Be sure to know what those costs are will it still function if you don’t want to use that service anymore. I’ve seen presentations and asked that question and sometimes have gotten conflicting answers from the vendor. Be sure to know.
Try them out and gather data!
I looked at quite a few and if we couldn’t get a demo unit into the school then we did not consider it. It was too important piece of equipment to base it upon a tech spec sheet and tutorial videos. If a vendor can’t provide a demo unit (or if you can’t go to them and try it out) stay away.
Also, when you try them out set up a formal demonstration either through the vendor or doing it yourself. Show off some highlights of each machine and allow teachers to give feedback. I know there will be times I will be use the IWB but teachers and students will be using it more than myself and hearing what they want is critical for getting buy in.
Devices in this area are rapidly changing and developing. Do not worry about buyers remorse. If you find the best fit for your school at that time be comfortable with that decision and don’t kick yourself when the prices drop $500 the next year or when an 8K display becomes available for the same price, etc.
Also, stay away from IWBs that are aimed for corporate environments. I’m looking at your Surface Hub 2. This is a great device and a marvel of engineering but the sheer cost of it ($9000 for the 55″) is not realistic to most K–12 schools regardless of funding.
Finally, make it a team decision. Don’t unilaterally make this decision. Gather a group of educators (teachers are a must) and get feedback. If no one can agree on a path forward then that is not a failure or people being difficult. It is most likely a sign that your school may not be ready for this device yet or more likely, the devices out there cannot meet the needs of your school. I’ve been in a school with “Interactive Whiteboards” and they stunk! Few teachers used them, they weren’t enjoyable to use and basically sat unused.
When it does arrive, be sure to educate your staff and do it often throughout the years to come. Make sure people know how to use the basics and are somewhat comfortable with it.
Tony and Patrick are back with a scintillating show talking about Apple, projectors, Python and more! Check out the talking points below and as always subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app
In February of 2018 I wrote a review for Anchor. Anchor is a website and mobile app that will let you create and publish your very own podcast! I had a lot of very nice things to say about and you can read my review here. I did warn that this free service would not last and it could very easily disappear though I hoped this would not be the case.
My worry is that these companies are going to try to monetize podcasts, find out that people will just not subscribe or pay for many of these podcasts and then the whole thing will start to collapse. Then these companies will do what companies do when they want to cut their loses. They will start closing down development, departments, lay people off or transfer them to another department and then bye-bye Anchor 😦
I don’t think that Anchor being a casualty of the podcast war and going away is too crazy. In fact it seems very likely.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the path that Anchor is heading. If you use Anchor – keep using Anchor. Don’t stop but I would start looking for alternatives. I would also keep an eye on any Anchor news. Subscribe to their blog and read any news concerning this podcast war is also a good idea. I doubt that they will shutter or close anytime soon, but having to find a new service for your educational units is always a pain.
The bottom line is that Anchor is not going away … yet.
Tony and Patrick after a long and much deserved Spring Break. This episode promises to be another classic as Tony and Patrick talk about some upcoming Windows news, some great advice about STEM/STEAM skills and even a bit of comic book movies and Game of Thrones. Check out the talking points below and as always subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.
OK – to be fair, you need Google Sheets and the Flippity add on, but still, this is pretty handy, easy to do and works really – really well. I’ve seen a couple of articles about this on the web but I’m going to go a little deeper and walk you through from start to finish.
In this example, we will be doing some language learning though I can think of this being used for math problems and vocabulary as well and much, much more. So let’s get started.
Google Translate in Sheets
The first thing we need to do is open Google Sheets and get ready for some magic! We will be translating words from English to Spanish. I will be using specific words and not phrases. As we all know translating longer pieces of text can sometimes lead to unexpected results 🙂
As you can see, I have 10 English words about the Spring season. I could look these up, but I will let Google Translate do it for me.
In cell B2 I will type this formula which will translate it from English to Spanish automatically.
=googletranslate(A2, “en”, “es”)
So let’s break this down. =googletranslate will let Google Sheets know that it needs to use Google Translate – pretty straight forward. Don’t forget the comma!
A2 tells Google Sheet where the word is that needs to translated.
“en” (yes you need the quotations) lets it know what language the original language is.
“es” (again don’t forget those quotes) let’s it know what it needs to translate it to. (ES = Spanish by the way)
So this is what it will look like.
Now all we need to is move your mouse to the bottom right hand corner of cell B2 (it should turn into a + sign) then click and drag down like in the GIF below.
Google Sheets (any spreadsheet program really) understands the pattern and automatically replicates the googletranslate formula all the way down properly changing the cells as needed.
Now we are ready to turn this into interactive flashcards
The next thing we need to do is get the Flippity add-on. To do this open a blank Google Sheet and then click on Add-ons from the menu bar. Then select Get Add-ons.
A new window will pop up and from here search for and add Flippity to Google Sheets. You only need to do this once. After you’ve added it, every new Google Sheet you open will have the ability to utilize the Flippity add-on if you want it to.
To activate the Flippity add-on, click on Add-ons and select Flippity and select Pick a Template.
The template you will want to chose is, surprise – surprise, Flashcards. Go ahead and click Use.
Flippity will do some magic and then create a new worksheet with whole bunch of info that you do NOT want.
Do not be alarmed. This is merely an example of how and where to put your data. So go ahead delete all of their information and copy and paste your data. Your data will be on another sheet (probably called Sheet 1 like mine). You can find this at the bottom of the page.
You may also notice that you can customize the flashcard color and the text color. This is not necessary but a nice touch. Here is my finished flashcard spreadsheet.
To get to the flashcards, click on Add-ons, select Flippity and then select Flippity.net URL.
A pop up will appear with a web address. You can click that and it will take you to your very own custom made flashcards!
You can also check out my flashcards and get your Spanish learning on!
You can do this on Quizlet, but I find the translation part much faster with Google Sheets and with the URL you can easily share out your flashcards with multiple people and there is no need for an additional account (though you can sign into Quizlet with your Google ID) tp sign into.
All in all – this took me around 5 minutes to make and I think you can make this as large or as small as you would like – have fun with it! It could be a good activity for a class or a group of students to help study and quiz one another.
Flippity can also make some other cool things like a Jeopardy so be sure to explore and see what else you can do with Google Sheets and Flippity.
When it comes to Google Sheets, small mistakes in the formula can lead to big errors so it is always good to double check the translation and make sure that it is indeed correct.
I know I’m not the first (not even close!) to do this but I figured it would be a good post anyway. We now have a self-checkout station in our library, so our students can check out books on their own. This post will show how we set it up and implemented it, which was easier than I originally thought it would be.
Hardware & Requirements
OK, let’s talk about what we used to make this happen.
We decided to use a Chromebook because it is pretty cheap, doesn’t take up a bunch of space and is portable. Also, it is very easy to manage.
We also gave the Chromebook its own scanner. This was a little more expensive than I thought and we made sure it had a base that it could sit in so students didn’t have to pick it up. Also, we want one that is a little heavy duty so it will last. Think of this as an investment. You can certainly find bar code scanners for much, much less but I firmly believe you get what you pay for here. This one in the picture is $150 USD.
We also used a label printer to print off student barcodes. We used a Brother label maker with its P-Touch software. This software lets us point it to a spreadsheet so we can design a simple template with tags in it and then print merge out all the labels for a grade level or school in one go.
This is a newer model than what we use but the labels in the end should be the same.
Here is a sample of what one of our student labels looks like.
We use these are sticks to affix a label to that will have a student’s name and patron number as a barcode. We use some plastic heavier duty sticks instead of paint sticks thought paint sticks would probably work just as well. I do know these are more expensive than paint sticks but they’re already colorful, don’t break easily and won’t give any kids splinters.
I’m not sure what ours are called but I’ll find out later and update the post with that info soon.
So our library (like many others) uses Follett Destiny to manage our collection; however, I believe that if you used another database that this could still work for you providing that it is web based like Destiny is. Even if it is run locally on your own network – there may be a place for a local user to log in and checkout books through a web browser. If so, then you could possibly set this up provided you would be able to create or modify roles in that system.
Self-Checkout Access Levels and User
In order for this to work we had to create a user in Destiny that can “check out” books. What we don’t want though is for that user to be able to forgive fines, remove books from the collection and basically bring upon an apocalypse.
Lucky for us, Destiny has lots of options and I’ll show you how we made this user.
First, you need to log in as an administrator in Destiny. Then go to Back Office. From here select Access Levels. Here we can create the role and then we will create the user.
When you are at the Access Levels screen go ahead and click on Add Access Level.
From here make sure you do the following:
Give it a memorable name
Change the Automatic log out to 240 minutes (this is the max time before the system logs the user out)
Change the Reset Circulation time to 120 seconds (or whatever you feel is appropriate)
Make sure the Collection Role is Student
Make sure the only access is Check out library materials
Then click Save.
Now we will stay on the Back Office page and but switch from Access Levels to Manage Patrons. Click on the Add New Patron button.
This will create a new patron or user. You need to fill in the information circled in the picture:
Access Level (make sure you select the one you just made)
Putting it together
On the Chromebook, we navigated to Destiny and had the librarian log in as our Sample Student. You should see that there are no options to search, check in or do anything else on Destiny except checkout books – perfect!
Now that all the hardware, access level and user are in in place here is what it looks like. I apologize for the mess, this was taken on a Friday afternoon before Spring Break – so a lot of students had returned books.
On Chrome, I zoomed into 150% so it is a little easier for anyone to see what has been checked out.
How it works
Here is how it all works together. A student has their library stick with their barcode printed on it. They pick out the book(s) they want and bring it to the self-checkout station. They scan their library stick which will bring up their account. Then they scan their books one at a time.
When they finish, they then use the trackpad on the Chromebook to click the Reset button. This resets the system and gets it ready for the next student to checkout.
If the system is inactive for 120 seconds it will automatically reset itself and after 240 minutes it will need to be re-logged in.
Details to know
We just set this up but have already had first graders use it and it went pretty well. If a student checks out too many books the system will require for an administrator to put in their username and password to accept it. If not, it will not check out that final book(s) they want.
Putting the self-checkout screen in full screen mode is also highly recommended. This will hide the address bar, bookmarks and any other tabs that may be open.
That reset button is the only real sticky point I can see. Signage is one time tutorial with the students is highly recommended but I figure after one (maybe two visits) students will be good to go. We tried it yesterday with first grade students and didn’t have too many problems!
There should be a librarian, teacher or aid nearby most times just in case.
Developing STEM and STEAM programs (Science Technology Engineering/Art Mathematics) is very exciting, but I have noticed recently there is a lack of cohesive standards to measure progress.
Like many people, I am working on building a set of standards. Some are customized, and some are licensed.
In my research, and through various networking engagements, I have settled on a set of core skills that need to be incorporated throughout the STEAM environment. The standards are being built around these skills.
I have found more engagement among students if the skills are presented first. The skills tend to fuel the desire for hands on work. I also want students to not focus on grades and common rubric models. I want them to focus on creating and going through the design process.
These skills have been developed by the MIT FabLab Program. The FabLab has been operating for well over a decade, and many FabLab partners have developed programs for younger students as well.
The overall philosophy is to learn the skills at every level, but increase the difficulty and complexity within the projects as students gain experience.
DIGITAL FABRICATION PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES
COMPUTER-AIDED DESIGN, MANUFACTURING, AND MODELING
COMPUTER-CONTROLLED CUTTING / Drawing
ELECTRONICS DESIGN AND PRODUCTION
3D MOLDING AND CASTING
COLLABORATIVE TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
3D SCANNING AND PRINTING
SENSORS, ACTUATORS, AND DISPLAYS
INTERFACE AND APPLICATION PROGRAMMING
EMBEDDED NETWORKING AND COMMUNICATIONS
DIGITAL FABRICATION APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
INVENTION, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, AND BUSINESS MODELS
DIGITAL FABRICATION PROJECT DEVELOPMENT
Looking at this list, it might seem impossible to imagine a Grade 3 or even Grade 8 students accomplishing these in a meaningful way. I would argue that all are achievable at least at the planning and design thinking stage. Most of these are achievable with the correct level or equipment and/or some creative outsourcing.
That's what we are here for. We want to help teachers and educators integrate technology in the classroom in sensible and relevant ways. Just drop us a line by commenting on any of our posts and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
And don't get stressed out...crack open a cold one on us :o)