Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It's a New Dawn, It's a New Day. . .

Well, here we are. It's the beginning of a new school year. I don't know about you, but my summer felt way too short. However, as this is the tech portion of the school program, I want to focus on some general information and a discussion of some changes for the upcoming year.

For the past two years, I have somewhat split my time between tech systems/operations management and tech support for teachers and students. I am hoping to make that more of an 80/20 or 90/10 proposition in favor of teacher/student support for the new year. As such, the configuration of Hapara, Haiku, GoGuardian, etc., will be temporarily handled by the Momentum Learning Operations/Data Team. This will also include the distribution and support of tech equipment/requests. I will still operate as an advisor/teacher advocate, but it was taking too much of my time to manage all of the back-end tech and systems. The specific details are not solidified, but they will be soon.

If you work at SOAR Academy, you know we have had some issues with the network security. We are working on this and hope to be more functional and secure very soon. We have reached out to Amplified IT for support. They are currently engaged in a GAFE audit of our domain. This has delayed the deployment of Hapara and a fully-updated GoGuardian. I apologize for the inconvenience, but we would really like to ensure that teachers can focus on teaching instead of being cyber security guards. It won't be easy, but we will make progress toward that end.

Requests for Tech Support
There is a new Momentum Learning Request Form to supplement the SDCOE Service Request procedure. Please see the updated Instructional Technology Flowchart Page for a breakdown of which request to submit. Links to both are included on the Flowchart Page and in the upper-right hand link section of this blog. . .Please try to utilize this as much as possible. It will expedite your request as specific people that can support you will be alerted when you complete the form.

There are many reasons I am an educator. Having the honor to work with your students is probably number one. I have always believed that it is our relationships with our students that make the greatest difference in their lives. Technology, while amazing, is but a medium of instruction. If I can help you or your students meaningfully integrate tech into your classrooms in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to me for support.

Be Awesome Today,
jeff

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Let Your (Google) Voice Be Heard . . .and Translated

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile. I ran across a blog post a few weeks ago: 5 Fantastic Fluency Tools for Teaching World Languages, that reminded me of the fact I really wanted to share some ideas around using the translate tool and Google voice typing with English learners. I was thinking more about the translate tool in Docs, but when I discovered that the voice tool was multilingual, well, "You had me at ¡hola!"

I created a short video about how to use both voice typing and translate in Google Docs. . .enjoy. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or ideas you may have to help our students. If you are a Spanish speaker and you figured out how to speak the voice commands for grammar, please share in the comments area. Don't forget to make the video full screen for your viewing pleasure!


Be Awesome Today,
jeff

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Diigo Ate My Baby: Thoughts on Research Using Web Tools

Research. If I asked you to tell me the first word that popped into you head when hearing that term, what would it be? Words like blah, dislike, notes, citation, etc., were some of the words my eighth-grade daughter and her friend came up with when I asked them. I have been teaching high school and college students and educators for a little over twenty years. Whenever I ask for research I hear the similar groans from teens and adults. I tend to tell both audiences that no one I work with likes to do it. I think a large part of the fear/loathing of research is that people do not think they do it very well, which is often true. However, one of the great things about technology is that it often offer us solutions that allow us to work smarter, not harder. Research is no exception. While there are many tools that can help teachers and students with research, I want to share one of my favorites, Diigo. This tool has so many features that it is the one I recommend the most when asked. Besides being able to publicly bookmark and annotate web content, the user can add notes, screen captures, and share the results with an annotated link. Best of all, everything the user saves on Diigo is available to other Diigo users. In a sense, you are doing research in a community of others doing research, which makes it easy to find someone else's research on almost any topic. Oh, and did I mention that it can be connected to student GAFE accounts? Does this sound interesting? I have created a not-so-short video to review some of the awesome features of Diigo. Please watch and let me know if you have any questions or if you would like me to help introduce the tool to your students!
Note: It is much easier to see the tools I discuss if you watch the video in full screen, which is the squarish icon in the bottom-right of the video. Click. Enjoy.

Be Awesome Today,
jeff

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Our Digital Learning Platforms and Procedures

 As we think about new ways to meet the various curricular needs of our students, I want to remind everyone about the option to use PLATO and/or Compass Learning’s digital learning platforms (Don’t worry, I will address how to enroll students later in this post). What are digital learning platforms? They are online resources, usually from commercial content providers, that can offer supplemental support for student learning or include full course content delivered over the Internet. PLATO, now called Edmentum, is a digital content provider we have used in JCCS for a long time. A number of years ago, we used it to target CAHSEE improvement. There were (and still are) teachers using it to supplement their curriculum by creating assignments for their students in PLATO. It was used to supplement our instruction. It was never designed for JCCS teachers to use it as the only curriculum for a course. We still have access to PLATO for the purpose of supplementing our curriculum. Now, PLATO also offers CTE content that can stand alone as a full course. Additionally, Compass Learning gives us access to full courses that students can take online. They also have A-G approval on many of their courses (I will defer to Stephanie Austin for the final word on which courses are A-G). For example, one of the more popular courses is Economics, which is challenging for teachers to offer to an entire class when they only have a few seniors. I have a folder with the course lists for PLATO and Compass on the blog, or you can access it here. (Note: As with all many digital learning platforms, the courses that are offered may change without notice. Don’t worry, we have staff in place who can help troubleshoot any issues you might have.)
So, should you use a digital learning platform with your students? Well, it’s complicated. First, I would like to clarify some questions that often come up whenever the topic of digital curriculum is discussed. The two most common questions are about whether or not the course is self-contained and what level of supervision is required from the teacher. The issue of self-containment varies from course to course. When we used to use PLATO for CAHSEE math support, it was a fairly self-contained class with minimal supervision required from the teacher. Conversely, the English course we offered for CAHSEE support required more supervision from the teacher as there were writing assignments that needed to be graded. In my ten plus years of working with JCCS educational technology, I can say that I have never found a digital curriculum from a commercial provider that can replace quality, teacher-designed content. In addition, the diverse needs of JCCS students will test the efficacy of the best online curriculum. This does not mean that there are not quality resources or courses that would benefit our students, it means that we need to take an active role in evaluating and assigning content to our kids. I would strongly recommend that all teachers preview any digital curriculum before assigning it to a student. This preview should include a look at the flow of the content, its rigor, and its accessibility to your students. You should also plan time to meet with the students at fairly regular intervals to discuss their progress and answer any questions they might have. Much like the majority of our technology tools, the JCCS data superstars, Jacquie Mallard and Rodney Gast (with support from Robin Mosby) work very hard behind the scenes to create and manage accounts. Additionally, Greg Severson, the Technology Impact Teacher at Innovations, is your educator contact and support. My role in this process is more along the lines of a provider of information and someone who can find the answers to your questions about these tools. Here is a brief explanation of the flow (courtesy of Jacquie Mallard):
  • ​If a teacher is interested in a course that is offered in BOTH Compass Odyssey and Plato they should consult Greg Severson who can help guide that decision. See the Course List linked above and on the blog.
  • If the teacher would like to supplement instructions with PLATO, please contact Rodney Gast regarding setting up a class and making sure your students are in PLATO. Once you have a class, Greg can provide instructions for how to access your class, add a student to it, and then give a particular assignment. Note: While a teacher can create her own class in PLATO, we strongly recommend allowing Rm 216 staff to do it for ease of overall management. If the course is NOT a part of the PROMIS course catalog (it must indicate Plato or Odyssey) then contact Robin Mosby who will need to add that.
  • If you would like to use Compass Odyssey: Students are uploaded nightly to the Compass Odyssey profile and Greg Severson can assist you in finding your students and assigning courses.
  • If you are interested in CTE courses, you can discuss options with Marisol Rerucha or
Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you still have any questions. I would be happy to point you in the right direction! Be Awesome Today, jeff

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Digital Citizenship 101

This guest post comes to you courtesy of Jessica Billeci and Samantha Bielman

As more and more Chromebooks hit the classroom, teachers are realizing that not only do we have to teach tech skills, but also how to use this new technology appropriately. Many of you are familiar with our Internet Use Agreement, but how far does that go in really teaching our kids how to be responsible, safe, and respectful online?

We share your concerns and have embarked on a new mission to bring Digital Citizenship to SOAR Academy. With support from leadership, we are both currently taking a 6-week course in Digital Citizenship hosted by SDCOE in partnership with Common Sense. Common Sense is an organization dedicated to providing research and resources to parents, students, and educators, regarding how to use digital media and technology as a positive force in kids’ lives. Our goal is to become Digital Citizenship Certified Educators, as well as have SOAR Academy become a Digital Citizenship Certified School. This certification not only informs our best practices, but also helps us qualify for eRate funding for technology.

We are learning that Digital Citizenship encompasses far more than cyberbullying and privacy concerns, which you may be familiar with from our “old school” Internet Safety course. Those topics are still very important, but we are branching out to include new topics such as: Digital Footprints, Searching, Evaluating Sources, Citing Sources, and Building Community.

Eventually, we hope to work with all SOAR Academy teachers, and potentially all of JCCS, to show educators how to use the amazing resources and curriculum that Common Sense has to offer them and their students. We have started compiling resources that we think may be useful to you and your practice, which can be found by clicking here. If you have any questions or suggestions please do not hesitate to contact either of us!

Jessica and Samantha

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Would you like some Google Badges. . .and Congratulations Natalie!!

Today is as good a day as any to celebrate the Awesome! For those who may not be aware, JCCS has been on a three-year journey to put chromebooks in the hands of all of our students. Teachers have volunteered (for the most part) to some intense training and our administrators have committed the resources we need to make this dream almost a reality. As I write this, we have more chromebooks than students, with some being used for testing, staff, some broken, etc., and almost every teacher has chromebooks in her classroom. This should be celebrated. What makes me more excited is that on any given day, I can get a snapshot of our Google Apps for Education (GAFE) use in the admin panel. Here, I can see the amazing work everyone is doing to integrate technology into the classroom.


Today, this is what I saw when I accessed the admin panel.We have has almost 1,400 active users and almost 4,000 docs created in the last seven days. This equates to 80% of our students! For me, it shows that we are actively using the chromebooks in our classrooms. While I cannot guarantee we are using them to transform student learning, the odds are much greater when we have this type of systemic use of instructional technology! It also tells me that students, as they increase their tech capacity, are soon going to be the drivers of how they want to use the technology. 

Does this scare you? It shouldn't. Just as we expect students to continue to be lifelong learners, teachers should be modeling this mindset in their own lives. Technology skills, particularly GAFE skills, are even easier to acquire with the new Google for Education Training. If you are a teacher who would love to improve on her tech skills, please visit google.com/edu and click on training, then choose "educator training," from the drop down menu. Here you will find some amazing resources and training material that will assist you in transforming the way you integrate technology into your classrooms. The curriculum was written by teachers for Google, and the content is fresh, relevant, interesting, and Fun! The best part is that you can complete the training entirely online whenever and wherever you would like. But wait, there's more.If you complete the training and take the certification tests, you can earn Google Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certification badges (there is a small fee to take the exams)! These badges will represent your proficiency with Google tools and are two requirements to take your skills to the next level. . .to become a Google Certified Innovator or a Google for Education Certifed Trainer.

Speaking of Google Certified Innovators, SPA teacher, and tech lover Natalie Priester has just been accepted to attend the first Google Certifed Innovator Academy in Mountain View, CA! This program has replaced the Google Certifed Teacher program (a program that I and Mark Rounds were fortunate to be selected to attend in 2012 and 2014). It is open to educators all over the world and the competition to get into the academy is fierce. To have three members from our small organization is something to celebrate! For me, the best part of being a Google Certified Innovator is meeting and learning with other tech-obsessed educators from around the globe!
Natalie has been a constant advocate of tech integration in her class and the 1:1 chromebook program has inspired her to go beyond her classroom and present to other educators at Google Apps for Education Global Summits. She has been a presenter in Riverside, Bakersfield, and Coronado GAFE Summits. She has also achieved her Educator Level 1 and Level 2 certifications. This demonstration of continued education not only makes her a smarter and more proficient teacher, it models lifelong learning for her students. Please congratulate Natalie when you see her. 


Be Awesome Today,
jeff

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Your Copy is a Template . . .and Can You Please Keep Awake!

This week's post brings a blast from the past and a clever solution for the present. I'm talking about our old friend, and creativity assistant, the template and a new friend who can help us keep the Chromebooks from logging out every time you or a student leaves the computer for five minutes. Let's explore the new Google Apps Template Galleries for Docs, Sheets, and Slides and meet our newest frustration saver, Keep Awake.


Remember the old days of Office, where there was a very cool template gallery that opened every time you began a new document or presentation? You could find templates for resumes, brochures, and newsletters. Then, you switched to Google Apps and, while there was a template gallery (that not a lot of people knew about), it wasn't the same. Now, with the separation of church and GAFE (#seewhatIdidthere), the tools in your Google Drive have almost all been separated into their own apps. This makes them work more smoothly on mobile devices and on the web. Now, they will operate from Drive or independently from their own, task-specific apps. Watch the short video to learn how to access the new template galleries (If you want to view the video in a larger format, hover over the video and click on the YouTube or directly on the "Full Screen" option to watch a larger version of the video).



The next piece of awesome was a result of a student assistant from La Mesa Blended Community School who asked me a few weeks ago if there was a way he could keep the chromebooks from sleeping while he was trying to help his teacher Dionne distribute chromebooks. Then, the very next day, there was a TIP exhibition at Reflections Central where Alicia, Cindy, and Knikki's students wanted to present their recorded podcasts to an audience of teachers, administrators, probation staff, and community members using the chromebooks (the podcasts were amazing, you should check them out: Reflections on Courage). They also needed a way to keep the chromebooks from sleeping so each group could just share a computer with a visitor instead of having to log in each time it went to sleep. Noticing a clear need for our community,  I researched a tool that could keep the chromebooks awake. With the ease of the Google Apps Admin Panel, I deployed the Keep Awake extension to everyone in our organization. You should now see a picture of the moon in your extension bar (See image above). If you want to keep the chromebook awake, click the moon and it will turn into the sun, which will keep the screen on. If you click again, you will get a sunset, which keeps the computer from sleeping (unless you close the lid). Don't worry, the extension will reset after the student, or teacher, logs out of the chromebook. If for some reason you don't have the extension, you can go to the Chrome Web Store and add it to your browser manually. I hope this will help some of you save time in the classroom. Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comment section below!

Be Awesome,
jeff