Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sharing Documents and Files Using Dropbox

There are various methods Dropbox may be used to share documents and folders with others.
  1. Share Link via Email
    • Pro: Material remains private between sender and recipient of email
    • Con: Reliance on Email as a means of communication
      1. Create a document and save it to Dropbox
      2. Locate the file in Dropbox
      3. Select the Link Icon in the upper right window of screen
      4. Select Email Link
  2. Share Link via Student Blog
    • Pro: Easily publish link for others to view
    • Pro: No reliance on Email
    • Con: Material is published on web - maybe an issue for younger students depending upon school policy
      1. Create a document and save it to Dropbox
      2. Locate the file in Dropbox
      3. Select the Link Icon in the upper, right window of screen
      4. Copy Link to Clipboard
      5. Paste into blog
  3. Share Folder with a Specific Recipient
    • Pro: Entire Contents of a folder are shared with teacher
    • Pro: Sender may add documents to folder and recipient has access to this new content
    • Con: Entire contents of folder are shared - this could be a problem if enabling camera loads and sharing photo library
      1. Open the Safari App
      2. Sign in to the Dropbox website (if you haven't already)
      3. Click on the file row to the right of the file's name to select it
      4. Press Get link from the blue action bar across the top of the file browser
      5. Select Share and add email and message into whare window that appears
      6. Tap Send

Camera Uploads

The “Camera Upload” feature in Dropbox allows for Dropbox to sweep the Photo Roll of an iPad and upload anything on that Photo Roll to a folder in Dropbox. This allows the student to share the file via a link in an email.
This process allows for relatively private sharing between student and teacher as well as a quick and simple answer to the problem of sharing large files created in iMovie. Once the folder is shared, every time students make a create a new iMovie project, it will be easily accessible by the teacher.

Enabling Camera Uploads in Dropbox

  1. Have students create a dropbox account ( and download the app to their iPads.
  2. When signing up for the account, make sure students enable Camera Uploads.
  3. When on, have students rename their Camera Uploads folder “Camera Uploads-TheirLastName” (this way you can later organize these shared folders in a larger folder on your dropbox account).
  4. Have students share that Camera Uploads folder with the teacher.
  5. On the teacher account, you can then put all the student Camera Uploads folders into a single folder, or group by grade or class.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Building a Digital Citizenship Team of Students

Teaching digital citizenship and responsibility should be at the forefront of every teacher's mind these days as we bring more and more technology into the classroom.  I strongly believe students will do the right thing and behave in the right way when they are made aware of what the right thing and the right behavior is exactly.  Do do this, our teachers are relying on the material made available for free from Common Sense Media.  And though the efforts are notable, I believe additional steps are necessary to truly move students from being skilled in the understanding of digital citizenship to becoming a fluent digital citizen.  That's why we're beginning to talk about ways we can develop a student task force to empower safe and ethical use of technology in each and every individual.

In an effort to use reverse mentoring, we're hoping to develop a team of students to reach out to each and every advisory class to be the student liaison to the teacher.  If a student is struggling with an issue related to digital citizenship, they can contact their digital citizenship "liaison" to assist them with the matter.  There would be one liaison per ~15 students.

These students would be resonsible for the following:
  1. Understand the areas of awareness of enlightened digital citizenship as well as the rays of understanding that permeate each area
    It would be this understanding that would guide responses to crisis or questions other students are currently encountering

  2. Monitor a group discussion area to foster communication/questions
    Student liaisons would be responsible for posting response to questions by students in their group and to pose questions causing the group members to think about scenarios they might someday encounter.  
This idea is in it's infancy.  I hope to grow it over the next few months so that our community becomes progressive in building digital citizens.

Classroom Monitoring Portal

I recently created a classroom monitoring portal, (CMP,) using Netvibes for the fifth grade teachers in one of our elementary schools.  You can find it here.

This CMP has a different focus than a typical CMP might have in that it is designed so parents can access information related to  student/teacher work and expectations in fifth grade.
Parents were struggling with having to visit so many different pages to access classroom information pertaining to each of the fifth grade teachers.  Since each student travels to each of the teachers for a specific content area, parents were having to go to three different websites and more for this information.  It was too difficult for parents.  Solution - a parent CMP.

This CMP houses individual tabs for the following:
1.  Each teacher's google calendar
2.  A portal for teachers to enter frequently visited websites
3.  A link to classroom wikis
4.  All student blogs
5.  Class list of blogs
6.  News Feed
The google calendar tab allows for the parent to view the classwork and homework related to each teacher on one page yet allows for each teacher to maintain an independent google calendar.  Keep in mind the process of learning for many teachers.  That's why you won't see much on their calendars.  They've just learned about them, love the idea, but haven't used them yet.  Things will change in the next week or two.
I have not included feeds for wiki edits/discussions to teacher wikis on this CMP because it is not relevant to the parent and it would confuse them.  If I wanted to put a feed in for wiki edits I would do so exactly the way I entered in student blog feeds only I would select the wiki edit or discussion feed for that page.
Teachers have not had a lesson in how to edit the portal to add in their favorite links other than the science teacher.  It's part of the process.
I did throw in a tab for news but will take that out eventually.  I may choose to put in some feeds relevant to parents related to our district in the future.
This page is a public netvibes feed.  I struggled a bit learning about how to move a tab from a private dashboard to a public dashboard.  I ended up sharing the link of the tab via an email to myself and then adding it to my public page that way.  I could not figure out how to do this in the manage dashboards section of Netvibes.  If any of you know how, I'd appreciate the feedback.
Lastly, if this post finds any fifth grade classroom teachers who are interested in sharing blogs with each other, please contact me.
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Diigo Posts (weekly)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Making the NetVibes Shift

I have always loved and used iGoogle as my feedpage so when I learned in August that Google was retiring iGoogle in October of 2013 I was a saddened.  I had created iGoogle tabs to manage my RSS feeds, student blogs, teacher blogs, etc... and the thought of losing this tremendous service was daunting and cumbersome.  Enter NetVibes, another feedpage service I was familiar with but not nearly as comfortable.  I had used it previously, to create a CMP for 6th grade teachers.

It's a month later and I have slowly transferred my feeds and am in the process of creating student portals for 5th - 12th grades.  I like NetVibes because the app is intuitive, plays nicely and shares nicely with others.  This is especially handy because I can create various dashboards/tabs and share the public link with students.  I can easily email tabs to students and they can add them to their NetVibes dashboard.

Here's a snapshot of the work in progress.  Right now, everything is in one dashboard - soon I'll create multiple dashboards specific to my needs.

Going Mobile with the iMovie App for iPad

I am continually looking for ways to make public the content students create on their iPads via student blogs.   I love the iMovie App for iPad but it takes a bit of maneuvering to make it "mobile" in order to develop a sweet student/teacher relationship.  The iMovie App for iPad is amazing in that anyone can easily create digital stories, tutorials, book trailers, etc... within a short period of time.  However, sharing that movie with others is easier said than done.  Once a movie is longer than a minute, (pretty easy to do,) the movie cannot be emailed to another user in it's entirety.   This presents problems for teachers who are hoping to easily access student created content, including iMovie.

Our students are too young to have their own YouTube account.  And, even though we are a Google Apps for Education school, the user agreements for YouTube do not fall under the Google Apps for Education umbrella.  So, to get around this dilemma, teachers have created an additional google account to be used specifically for the uploading of video content to YouTube.  The username and password of this account are shared with the student and when these students finish an iMovie they send their movies to this account via the action icon in iMovie.

The teacher is in charge of monitoring the site, making sure posts to the site are appropriate and fall within acceptable guidelines.  Each teacher has their own account for this purpose.

The nice thing about hosting YouTube accounts in this matter is that the teacher can then use the video manager on YouTube to stitch together student created videos into a longer movie.  Recently, a teacher had each student create an iMovie detailing a specific chapter to a novel the class had finished reading.  The teacher pieced the clips together and created a ten minute retelling of the book and shared that on their blog site.

In addition, YouTube also provides each account with an email for mobile uploads.  When a user has this email, they can easily email video content from their media library directly to the YouTube account.  Students can then access the URL of the video from YouTube and post the video to their blog.

Finally, using various blogging apps (we use BlogPress) the student can share their newly created iMovie to their camera roll.  Once the teacher created YouTube account is connected to the BlogPress App (in Blogpress Settings) the student can directly post the movie to their blog post and it will upload the iMovie to both to YouTube and to their blog.   Once on a student blog, anyone can easily access the video content.

Here's an "unrelated" iMovie about Diigo I made using this method.

Monday, September 3, 2012

How Do You Communicate?

Synchronous Communication - Participants connect with each other live or at one given time. This type of communication may be accomplished via text and audio/video technologies.
Video:  Skype, FaceTime, Blackboard, WizIQ
Text:  Instant Messaging, Social Networks, Back Channels (Today's Meet)

Asynchronous Communications - Participants communicate regardless of time and space.  This type of communication allows multiple participants to access, view, edit, listen and contribute to the conversation anytime or anywhere, regardless of other participants.
Video:  Recorded Meetings, YouTube,
Text:  Google Docs, Wikis, Blogs, Collaborative Calendars, Email, Social Networks

Knowing and understanding the technologies that support both of these types of communications does more than increase the chances for a successful project, they make them fun.  They do this because they build on the social aspect of collaboration - building relationship.  We, as humans, genuinely want to know people from other places.  Most of us value the cooperative group effort toward a common goal.  Using online spaces to connect students around a standard makes sense.

Here's an example 
I was assigned the task of creating a blog post about Teacherpreneurs with three other people.  Once the topic/groups were assigned, class ended.
We had a week to:
  1. Decide how to get started
  2. Organize our thoughts in a common place
  3. Share our blog post with the class
Communication tools were essential in the success of the project.  Here's how:
Decide How to Get Started
We used a social network (the FCP ning) to get the ball rolling on this project.  A group member shared a chat with all members of the assigned group - checking in, basically starting a hand-shake.  This was the first time anyone had worked together and it was essential to say hello and introduce.  From there a plan was born.  One group member would start a google-doc and we could all jot down our thoughts on the topic in one place.  
So far all communication was asynchronous.  
The google doc allowed for each participant to work independently, yet collaboratively in one space.  
Organize Thoughts in a Common Place
Google docs allows the ability to work in a collaborative environment on one document.  Here we could easily write, edit, and revise.  
At this point, we were still missing a group member.  We used additional forms of communication to attempt in contacting the missing member.  Group members chatted synchronously on the ning using the instant messaging feature.  From here, members emailed, tweeted, and sent messages to the missing member.  
We also used the instant message feature to continue the direction of the post, refining the editing process.  We could have done this on the google doc itself, but the immediate feedback the instant message feature allowed for quickened the process.  
Share the Blog Post
The post is written, the google doc made public, and the link to the document is shared with the rest of the class.  A cooperative and collaborative effort that enhanced the definition of teacherpreneur to all members of the class.  

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Information Management in an iPad 1:1 Environment

Managing the quantity of student data quickly becomes overwhelming when implementing a 1:1 iPad program.  Typically, the focus is on app selection and integration of the technology into classroom practices and the topic of information management is frequently overlooked.  This neglect often leaves teachers with with the inability to view student created content with ease and with full email inboxes that quickly become overwhelming.

There are a few ways we've managed to ease this burden.
  1. Evernote Premium accounts for teachers, Evernote Free accounts for students.
  2. Dropbox accounts
  3. Annotation apps
  4. Classroom Management System (CMS) like Wikispaces
  5. YouTube accounts (either teacher or student)
  6. Student Blogs as portfolios / Netvibes for monitoring
Evernote premium allows a user to create an unlimited number of notebooks and share them with free Evernote subscribers.  We use Evernote like this: 
A teacher creates a notebook for each student and both the student and teacher can contribute new notes to that notebook.  Think of the notebook as a folder and the new notes as a document.  The shared notebook feature allows both teacher and student to add content to a notebook at any given time and though not as seamless as the desktop version of Google Docs, Evernote quickly becomes a close second in that it gives student and teacher the ability to work on one version of a document.
The note feature of Evernote has word processing features with the added abilities of including audio and other media including web content.
Lastly, many apps are beginning to integrate with Evernote meaning that after content is created or viewed, a user can easily end the content to an Evernote notebook.
Dropbox accounts allow a user to upload and access documents easily on an iPad.  Once a document is uploaded to Dropbox a user can open it in a variety of apps on the iPad.  Dropbox also allows a user to easily create a link to a document or to the entire folder.  This link can be posted on a CMS like Wikispaces and another user can click on the link using their iPad, and either complete a direct download by choosing an application to open the file or downloading it to their personal dropbox account.  And, like Evernote, more and more apps are beginning to integrate nicely with Dropbox.  Soon, maybe everyone will play together nicely.
To learn more about using dropbox to share files visit my recent post.

Annotation apps are essential if you are uploading PDF documents to the iPad.  These apps let a user download the document onto their device and easily annotate the document.  I like neu.Annotate+PDF for students.  It's cheap, $0.99 and works great.

A CMS is essential.  My favorite is Wikispaces, but whether you use Blackboard, Moodle, Edmodo or wikispaces is irrelevant.  A teacher needs to have a platform for collaboration, communication and delivery of content and ideas.  At our school we use the Wikispaces Private Label, a secure wiki environment which allows for the creation of unlimited wikis with a similar domain.  Wikispaces is rumored to be working on an iPad app, which, if it happens, will allow make the process of creating, collaborating, accessing and communicating with content even easier.

YouTube accounts make disseminating video content a breeze.  Unless your students are creating small and short video clips, the option to email video content becomes mute.  The files are simply to large to email and personally, I don't want my inbox filled with student content.  Many video creation apps offer the "Send to YouTube" option.  For students old enough to have a YouTube account, this isn't a problem.  For students in the younger grades, we created an additional google account for each teacher.  This is the account the teacher shares with students for the purpose of uploading video content.  It's not used for much of anything else.  After a student creates a video, they send it to their personal, or teachers, YouTube account and then provide the link on their student blog, Evernote notebook, or wikispace page.  

Student Portfolio - A place for the student to personalize their learning journey is essential.  Each student creates a school blog in which they record this journey.  Our younger students use Edublogs, our older students use Blogger.  This gives them the opportunity to work in both platforms though we may revisit this next year.  Apps like Blogpress and Blogsy allow for easy post creating and editing, including the uploading of media content to blogs.
Teachers can easily monitor student blogs by using a feed page like Netvibes

Finally, as you are choosing apps for the iPad, look for those that integrate with DropBox and Evernote.

We are in year 2 of a 1:1 iPad implementation and we are still learning.  I'd love to hear from those of you who have innovative ways to access and share created content using iOS devices.

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