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Introduction to Google Docs

Google Docs is a cloud-based office sweet.  That basically means that your word processor, presentation maker, and spreadsheet tools are accessible through a website instead of your desktop.

How does that affect you?

You can access your documents from any computer with an internet connection, and you will always have the most up-to-date version of Google Docs as upgrades happen automatically online.  It also means that you can share documents with other Google Docs users in real time without ever having to worry about messy attachments.

What does this cost?

Goolge Docs is completely free for educational users!

Introduction to Khan Academy

Introduction to Khan Academy

Khan academy is an exceptional resource for educators and students – so exceptional in fact that the Gates foundation just cut them a hefty check.  Broken into short lectures, well over 2000 lessons are available to watch via YouTube.

Watch This

If you don’t have time to watch the whole twenty minutes, skip to 6:02 where Salman talks about how teachers are using his videos to “flip the classroom” or assign the lecture as homework and go over the homework in class.

1 to 1 Computing with Netbooks

One-to-One Computing

Rick Kojis, Technology Coordinator of Wheatland School District, led this session.  He spoke on behalf of a district that just completed its first year implementing a 1 to 1 computing program.

Pros:

Although they experienced some bumps along the way, the initiative benefited the district.  With the combination of relatively low cost netbooks, open source technologies, ongoing professional development, and a strict re-imaging policy,* the 1 to 1 computing initiative posed few logistical or technical problems, and greatly increased student engagement.

Cons:

Teachers had to provide alternative assignments to students that lost their computing privileges.

Important Lessons:

  • Instead of providing each teacher with extra netbooks, students that forgot theirs at home had to check one out from a central location like the library.
  • Students were responsible for backing up their files (USB or online storage).
  • Not every child had Internet access at home, resources had to be downloadable at school.

*If a student complained of any software issue, and it was determined that it would take more than 10 minutes to fix, the computer was wiped clean and returned to the student with a fresh install.  Rick said students quickly learned to resolve their own issues.

Adding Style to your SMART Board Lessons

Adding Style to your SMART Board Lessons

This session highlighted some of the advanced features of the Notebook software that really make the SMART Board an engaging, interactive, and exciting classroom tool.

By manipulating simple color and layer options, teachers can create a host of complex SMART Board activities.  This session also examined the SMART Exchange which enables teachers to search, by standard, for pre-made SMART Board lessons and activities.

Pros:

Overall, this session provided some great information with regard to the “keystrokes and operations” of the SMART Board.  I would definitely recommend it to newer SMART Board users.

Cons:
“Con” is perhaps too harsh for this section of the post as the title of this session didn’t promise anything more than it delivered, but I still felt there could have been more of a discussion as to how the SMART Board could be implemented to foster higher order and critical thinking.  Additionally, I would have liked to discuss how the SMART Board can bring learning outside of the classroom via the built-in screen capture software.

The Future of Textbooks

The Future of Textbooks
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt stands as one of the first major textbook publishers to publish a textbook as an “app.”  While many publishers offer e-book versions of their texts, those actually differ very little from their printed counterparts.  HMH Fuse is a comprehensive Algebra 1 resource that may change the way we teach math.

According to the presenter and accompanying website, in contrast to most e-books (or flat files) “students and educators using HMH Fuse: will benefit from:

  • Instructional videos that teach or re-teach all key concepts
  • Math Motion is a step-by-step interactive demonstration that displays the process to solve complex equations
  • Homework Help provides at-home support for intricate problems by providing hints for each step in the solution
  • Vocabulary support throughout with links to a complete glossary that includes audio definitions
  • Tips, hints, and links that enable students to acquire the help they need to understand the lessons every step of the way
  • Quizzes that assess student’s skills before they begin a concept and at strategic points throughout the chapters. Instant, automatic grading of quizzes lets students know exactly how they have performed
  • Immediate assessment results sent to teachers so they can better differentiate instruction”

This “app” is currently being piloted, but results have yet to be released to the public.  I think the instructional videos that can be paused, rewound, and played at a student’s own pace could certainly benefit those that don’t quite “get it” the first time around.

I am very interested to see how HMH Fuse performed against the control group.