Monday, September 24, 2007

Great new tool from Google!

Each week in the Staff Development Lab, we offer a "Power Lunch" learning session that focuses on ways to integrate technology. Faculty and staff members are invited to "learn as they munch" -- they bring their lunch to the lab, and we provide a short demonstration (about 20 minutes) and a beverage and treat (cookies, granola bar, etc.).

Last week's topic was "Google Tools for the Classroom" which focused on using "Google Docs" -- word processing and spreadsheet files that can be shared, co-authored and edited in real time, on the web. Documents can be public or private, and can be shared as "view only" or with editing access. CommonCraft has recently published a great introductory video called "Google Docs in Plain English" -- see:

As I was preparing for the session, I created a handout to share with the attendees, along with several sample files for the demo. However, as I was sharing the process for uploading files, I was surprised to see that in addition to uploading Word and Excel files, Google now provides an online presentation tool!

Users can upload PowerPoint files, which can be edited using a web browser. Similar to the Docs and Spreadsheet tools, collaborators and viewers can be invited, and the final presentation can be published for all. There is a even a feature for presenting "live" across the Internet and the ability to interact with the internet-based audience.

There are about a dozen background templates for creating a presentation without first uploading a PowerPoint file. Limitations are: not more than 10mb in size, and unlike Docs and Spreadsheets, presentation files cannot be downloaded for further editing in PowerPoint.

What a great educational tool for students who are given "group" projects. No worries about who had the most recent copy of the presentation. No worries about file incompatibility. Yay Google!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Helping Educators Become Technology Literate

There are many considerations in helping educators become technology literate. I think it is especially hard these days, given the amount of information we and our students are exposed to on a daily basis. Not to mention the fact that technology, both hardware and software, continues to change and evolve at a rapid pace. It seems that as soon as you become comfortable with a tool, a new and improved version is released. As much as I embrace the use of technology, and how it can enrich students' experiences in the classroom, I sometimes find it challenging to "keep up."

I was clearing out some old email messages and came across a discussion I had with an Instructional Technologist from Texas about trying to help teachers become more technology literate. My response to her inquiry included the following questions:
  • What are the "technology" expectations for your teachers?
  • Are technology goals defined at the local level by the stakeholders, or are they state mandated?
  • What is the teacher's mission for integrating technology?
  • What are their frustrations?
  • Do the teachers have access to reliable technology tools?
  • Do they understand where or how technology can improve learning?
  • There are always beginners, adapters and innovators when it comes to using technology, yet every school seems to have a few teachers willing to take risks with technology, does yours? If yes, these teachers need to be your evangelists! They need to spread their excitement!
  • How can the technology innovators in your school, help those still struggling?
  • Can you enlist the innovators in your school to share their best practices and success stories? Often, one teacher doesn't know what another is doing, and some very awesome things could be happening in your own backyard that should be showcased!
  • Time is a precious commodity that teachers never seem to have enough of. If your evangelists can show how they have overcome the time obstacle, it may inspire others as well.
  • How do you allow teachers to experience, and most of all celebrate, success? There is nothing more frustrating than going to an inservice day, or training session, and come away feeling they will never "get it," or "this will never work in my class."
  • As an instructional technologist, what is your biggest challenge in integrating the technology?
  • Do you offer assistance in the classroom?
  • Are you designing technology-rich lessons or are the teachers expected to create them?
  • Who teaches the students technology literacy? Do you have a computer "person" who does, or is this the teacher's responsibility?
  • Can you show teachers how technology can make their lives easier?
  • What kind of information in small bits can you offer, that will show teachers how technology supports learning? Or, help their students to learn better?
Perhaps you are in a position to provide support to educators and have asked (or answered) these questions? I would love to learn your tips.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Whew! We're rolling now.... hmmm... what to learn?

It's been a bit of a hectic start to the school year. There is always a flurry of things to get done, and most everyone has questions, even though we hadn't changed many things over the summer. One major undertaking was that our campus became totally wireless this year. Since so many of our teachers are using laptops, this is a welcome upgrade! It has somehow affected our ability to iChat in BonJour though. We just don't "see" each other anymore.

So, now that things are settling in, it's time to set our goals for the coming year. In our professional learning community, we are committed to life-long learning. So, what will our learning consist of? What tools will we use in our classrooms? Will we risk trying something new? How will we learn? Who will teach us?

The web is a wonderland of both useless and useful information. I love the fact that so much information is online and freely available. So much to learn, so little time. But, here's something to get you going. Check out Common Craft, where complex items are explained in plain English -- "their product is explanation." Confused about Web 2.0 tools such as Social Bookmarking, Wikis, and RSS? The Common Craft videos are great starters to introduce you to these concepts.

Happy learning!