29 articles Articles posted in COETAIL

The Battle Of The Browsers

Chrome VS Firefox VS Safari, which browser do you use? Which browser offers the best experience? I get asked all the time what browser I use and why. I also ask people all the time why they use certain browsers. It’s interesting to hear peoples opinions. My favourite browser is Chrome, I find it fast, reliable and it can handle anything I throw at it. I am always running multiple tabs, opening links in new tabs, loading multiple videos at once, etc. And Chrome takes it all in it’s stride. But other than that, I find it hard to explain why I prefer Chrome. It’s the little things that make a difference I find, so I decided to go into more details and think a little deeper about one of the most used and useful tools on a computer, the browser.

 

Modified from University of Wisconsin Archive Images with inspiration from www.businessinsider.com.

 

ADDRESS BAR

When Chrome was first released, I LOVED that I no longer needed a search bar and an address bar. Anything that you typed into the address bar that wasn’t a URL, Chrome does an instant Google search for you. It didn’t take Firefox long to catch onto this idea and integrate it into their browser a few releases later. It took Safari much longer, but Safari 6 now offers this as default in their browser. One thing to note is that not all ‘omnibars’ are created equal. While Chrome and Safari can search anything in the address bar, Firefox has some troubles sometime when using special characters as the first character of a search. For example, if you wanted to search a hashtag in Firefox, it would return the result as an error. To circumvent this, you have to go Googles homepage first, then do the search from within the browser.

 

TABS

As I mentioned above, I use a LOT of tabs in my browser. I think Chrome handles tabs the best out of any other browser for a few reasons. One reason is that it can simply fit in more tabs than any other browser. It consenses the tab and makes them really small which is a great feature. Firefox and Safari’s tabs will not shrink past a certain size, which means you have to scroll through your tabs from a button on the right of the screen. Less than ideal.

Another great feature of Chromes tabs is that when you are closing them, they don’t change size until you move your cursor. This makes it really easy to close multiple tabs fast. Just hover over the close button and keep clicking. You do not have to move your cursor around finding the correct close button on each tab. On Firefox and Safari when you close a tab, the other tabs resize immediately, making it inconvenient to close multiple tabs in a row.

The final thing that I like about the tabs in Chrome is the ability to pin them as app tabs. If you right click a tab and pin it, it will then shrink and stick to the start of your row of apps. I use app tabs for sites that I visit regularly like email. This feature is also available in Firefox, but not Safari and is one of the main reasons I don’t use the new Safari more often.

 

PDF

It’s important to have your PDF’s open natively in a browser window. It’s a hassles to have to download them and then open them in a viewer. I think Safari was the first browser to support this, but Chrome also now has this feature integrated. Unfortunately Firefox has still not caught up. It’s possible in Firefox but you have to modify the original software with an add on to allow this function.

 

SYNC

When I first started using Firefox’s sync feature, I could stop lugging a computer between work and home and work totally from the cloud. This sync feature is great as it allows you to save all of you passwords, history, cookies, bookmarks, etc. in the cloud and sync it with any computer you use. So when you have your browser synced, the saved passwords that you used at work, are now also saved at home on your browsers. Firefox offers this, but the inital sync up is hard as you have to enter serial numbers that seem to expire, so you really need both computers at the same place, at the same time to initially make this happen. Chrome uses your Google account to sync your information, making it really easy to use. Safari offers a syncing feature through iCloud, however it only syncs opened tabs, no other information.

 

APP STORE

Once again, Chrome shows how advanced it is by creating an app store. You can download a range of different apps into your browser. My favorite is offline mail, incase your away in a distant land without internet connection, you can still view, read, compose, send and reply to mail (obviously the mail you send to will not be sent until you reestablish an internet connection).

 

REMOTE DESKTOP

The final nail in the coffin is Chrome’s remote desktop feature. If you wish to, you can use Chrome to control a remote computer, anywhere in the world, as long as you and the computer you want to access has Chrome, an internet connection and someone at the other end allowing the connection to happen. Just download the app and it walks you through the whole process. This is a super powerful tool that usually costs a considerable amount of cash. However, Chrome allows the download of this app for free!

 

SUMMARY

In summary, as you can see from the table below, Chrome comes out a clear winner in usability and innovation. I highly recommend using it on any computer you have. Firefox comes along close behind, in second. Unfortunately, in my opinion, even with the recent advancements, Safari 6 has a long way to go if it wants to be competitive.

Chrome and Firefox can be download for free from their respective website:

Download Chrome here

Download Firefox here

Safari comes preinstalled on all Mac computer. Safari 6 comes free with OSX Mountain Lion, is available in OSX Lion, but is not available on any other version of OSX .

FEATURE

CHROME FIREFOX

SAFARI

Address bar search

✓ (only with Safari 6)

Fully function address bar

Narrow tabs

Tabs don’t move when closing

Pinable app tabs

PDF viewer

with add on

Sync

only tabs

App store

Remote desktop

Teachers Portfolios – What Are The Options?

It seems that more and more teachers are becoming comfortable with technology and want to jump in feet first. This is great, because they are becoming more in control of their digital footprint. The first step a teacher can take when they accept the internet as a positive contributor to their professional life is to develop a digital portfolio. It’s becoming more and more common for teachers to have a digital portfolio, along with an online CV, details of work experiences and jobs as well as a range of other aspects about their career.

There are many options when creating an online portfolio. A lot of people have a blog and that is where they write reflections on their learning, reflections of what they have taught, displays of students work, etc. Sometimes they also have static sections where they list their work experience, contact details, references, etc. This is much more fluid and changes every day/week/month.

Others are more static, so it doesn’t change very often and is only updated when your resume updates. I think this is less effective as it wont show up very high in search engine results (you wont have many links on it or people wont have your page linked very much because there will be nothing to share on it, plus it’s not updated a lot. All factors which contribute to high search engine ranking). Also, this way of creating an online portfolio is much more like using new technology (websites) in old ways (static resume).

So here are some options when creating a professional teacher portfolio:

www.blog.com – This is a free blogging platform (with the option of a paid upgrade), powered by WordPress. It has advertisements but has good customer support and allows a lot of customization for a free service.

www.wordpress.com – A free blogging platform very similar to blog.com. Example – http://seanscoetailblog.wordpress.com/

www.weebly.com – A free service (with the option of a paid upgrade) that let’s you create websites/blogs. It is very user friendly as it uses a drag and drop system. Example – www.isshkjslibrary.com

www.pbworks.com – A wiki platform that you can easily use to create websitex (less visual modification is available). This is what I my course delivery site but it could be customized any way you like. Example – www.misternorris.pbworks.com

WordPress (with external host such as www.godaddy.com) – similar to WordPress.com, but it’s fully customizable, has no adds and allows you to make sure to fully constomize your URL. You have to pay a small fee each year for the domain (URL) and website hosting (about $50 a year). This also allows you to have your own custom email account (E.g. me@misternorris.com). This is what I use for this site.

As you can see, there are many options, depending on your needs, budget and how much customization you use. If you are using something else, be sure to share in the comments below.

Shortcuts Desktop Wallpaper

I realized that a lot of people struggle remembering shortcuts. So I wanted to come up with the easiest way possible for people to remember them. In the past, I made posters and hung them around the school. But for the average user, they would need to print it out and stick it at their desk. This wouldn’t really be something I would do so I tried to think of better ways. Then I realized that if I made a desktop wallpaper, everyone could have it on their computer, with instant access. What a great idea! This is the result:

DOWNLOAD LINK

So now all you have to do is click the download link above. This will open the image in a separate tab. Now right click (hold control and click) then image and select ‘Set As Desktop Background’. Now all you have to do is remember or write on a small piece of paper the shortcut of fn + F11 and it will hide all of your windows so that you can now see all of the shortcuts! I would recommend writing the hide all shortcut on a small piece of paper and sticking it to the bottom of your screen so it’s always there.

I designed the poster with some black space on the right so that you can have some documents on your desktop. I think this poster will also give you incentive to keep your desktop clean or else you wont be able to see the shortcuts!

If I have missed any important shortcuts please let me know in the comments below. I would have liked to add of the mouse/trackpad shortcuts, so maybe I’ll make another version in the future with those in it.

Please let me know if this was useful to you by leaving a comment below. If you like it, please share it and spread the word.

A Brief History Of The Internet

The internet, it’s economy and it’s ramerfercations have come about in such a short time span it’s hard to know to put it into perspective. For most of our students, being digital natives, they have no idea that there was life before the internet. They have no idea that MySpace dominated before Facebook and that the idea of having affordable internet on a mobile phone (thanks to the iPhone) is also a very recent manifestation of technological advancements. I also think it’s good for us that were around when all of these amazing technological advancements came about to remember when it all happened.

So I was researching to see if anyone had made a timeline of when these technological advancements came about but I couldn’t find anything decent enough. So I decided to make my own. I hope you enjoy it and can use it in your classrooms.

I used Prezi to develop the timeline as I’ve had the idea to use Prezi for a while. I love the three dimensional features of Prezi, being able to not just move up, down, left, right but also in and out. I think for a timeline this is a great idea as it can give the viewer some perspective and infinite amount of detail can be added to the timeline as each section can be zoomed in further and further to add new events and details. In reality this worked well, but I did have regular problems importing images. I love that you can search for and import images straight from inside Prezi. But that feature was a little glitchy and didn’t work 100% of the time. Dragging and dropping from my desktop was also not effective at all. The best way I found adding pictures worked was finding them online, saving them to my desktop, then uploading them in Prezi. This was a little time consuming. But over all, I’m very happy with the results and would love to see someone use Prezi as a timeline in more detail to see how the zooming in and out of events could really change the way we write and view timelines.

A Laptop Cart At A 10th Of The Price

This school year, my school had two laptop carts. One in the elementary school and one in the middle/high school. The computers are house in a big, grey metal cart. When it arrived, the cart had no power capabilities, so basically we just purchased the structure and we had to set up the chargers and cables. From what I was informed, the carts are hard to source in Japan, so it had to be shipped to Tokyo from the US. I was also told that the cart cost roughly ¥3000. Or when put in perspective, three laptops. Now that’s an expensive grey box!

 

The current laptop cart, minus some laptops.

 

I for one think this is ridiculous! It cost three computers in the hands of students, just to roll the computers around. So myself and my department have been thinking of better ways to house and transport the computers. We tried static shelves. It worked but the computer had to be transported by the children, one by one before and after each lessons. This would have worked if the computers were being used by just one class, but they were a shared resource which made it tough. We sat the shelf in the hallway and students would pick them up, carry then to class, and return them when they were finished. We thought about the idea of putting the computers in tubs and carrying the tubs. The problem with this is that it was just way too heavy. Four computers in a tub weighed much more than was safe to carry. Not to mention how cumbersome it was and how easy it was to spill them.

After a few failed attempts, we put the ideas to rest and decided that the only way to transport our computers was to use an expensive cart. Until one of our team noticed what another school in the areas was doing. They were using pre fabricated shelving, putting wheels on it then storing and transporting their laptops on shelves. I had not seen the actual cart, just heard about it, but I was a little skeptical. It sounded very messy and a cheap way around the problem. But my boss was adamant that it would work and purchased all of the equipment needed. I set it all up with the help of the computer technician, on one of the last days of school so that it could be ready for teachers and students on the first day of next year.

When reading the box, I noticed that it said the shelves could hold up to 120KG. When looking at the flimsy shelves, I was VERY skeptical of this claim. I didn’t think it could hold the technician, let alone both of us on it together! So we tested it. I had the technician stand on it. I expect it to bend and come close to breaking, but it passed the 40KG weight test with ease. I then tried it. Once again, I didn’t think it could hold up, but it passed the 80KG test with flying colours. This is when I knew that this cart was going to be strong!

We started putting it together and at every level of the shelving, I stood on it to make sure that all the joint were in place. No tools required, just a Lego mindset and some imagination and you could make anything out of this stuff.

 

The new laptop cart, sold as a rock!

 

We set aside the bottom shelf for the chargers. The next shelf housed six computers, two stacked on top of each other. We had another two shelves the same then a top cover. It would have been quite easy to add another three shelves so that each row of three laptops had their own shelf, but we didn’t feel this was necessary. We put sides all the way around the cart so the computers would not fall out, on all sides except the front so students could slide the computers in and out.

The wiring took a long time to do. All up it took 2.5 hours and the construction of the cart took about 30 minutes, so about two hours to make sure the wiring was right. But we wanted to do it once, do it properly and not have to worry about it again. It was fiddly, but we made sure it was all cable tied into place and run along sections that computer would bump out of place.

 

Everything is cable tied into place.
Plug this single adapter into a power source and all of the laptops charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final product, I think, is actually better than the more expensive version. It’s lighter, more maneuverable, more customizable and much smaller. When compared side by side, it’s about half the height! This is a plus for students, as I know how awkward they consider the grey box to roll around. Some teachers even have troubles. So being smaller and lighter, it should be well received by students and teachers. The cables are easily set in place, unlike in the grey box. However, there are a few negative aspects of the new cart. If you are concerned about security, then the new cart can not be locked. But for our applications, we never locked the old cart anyway. One other concern we anticipated was that the shelves would be too low and skinny for teachers to get the computers in and out of. But my reasoning is, the computers are for student use, so the shelf is the perfect size for children’s hands. They can easily get computers out and put them away. The computers are for student use at the end of the day, so why not design the cart with the same principals in mind.

So despite the few negatives, I think the fact that it only cost $300 all up, a 10th of the price of the grey box and a saving of two and two thirds of a laptop, the new, small, customized, prefabricated cart is by far the better choice. What do you think? Have you seen other alternatives?

 

A side by side comparison. The new, prefabricated cart on the left and the expensive grey box on the right. I think it's clear which the winner is.

Open, Online Portfolios, One Year On

At the start of the school year, I set myself the large goal of implementing open, online portfolios in the form of blogs for all of my students from Grade Three to Grade Seven. I started them off with middle school (Grade 5, 6 and 7) right at the start of the year. I planned to implement the project with Grade 4 and Grade 3 a bit later in the year. As I only teach one 40 minute period per class, per week, it took a few weeks to get them off the ground. But this included constant revision and online safety lessons all rolled into the setting up of blogs for all students. Once we had them up and running, the students started to post in their portfolios and add some work to them. This was great to see and their reflections were always interesting to read.

I did spend a lot of time in those first few lessons reinforcing responsible online citizenship and what was and wasn’t appropriate and acceptable. I also constantly reminded the students that their blog was their professional portfolio, which means they could post whatever they liked, as long as it had to do with their ‘profession’. In short, it had to be about learning. All of the students really respected these rules and guidelines. They were very constructive with their comments on other posts. They always asked if it was OK to post something they weren’t sure of. Not once did I have to say that what they were posting was inappropriate. But at least I knew they were thinking before they jumped in and published which was great to see. Once or twice, I had to speak to a student and ask them how the 15 Taylor Swift photos they posted were related to their learning. After some thought, they usually just took it down. These conversation were really important as it helped reinforced to the students as to why they were creating their portfolios. And I believe, because they were given trust and responsibility, they all lived up to the high expectations that were set. Not once did we I find an instance of bullying. Not once did I find the students posting anything rude, derogatory, defamatory, etc. The fact that everything could be traced back to them, could have also helped with this situation, but I also think the fact that we trusted them, in an open and public forum really made them live up to expectations.

Student led conferences, another perfect reason to develop open, online, digital portfolios.

I then encouraged other teachers to ask the students to post work from their classes in their portfolios. A few really jumped at the chance to be able to display the work they were doing with their children. Students and teachers started to comment on the posts which also made their learning more relevant, giving the students a real world context and purpose for their work. Not to mention meaningful two way feedback. Some teachers didn’t quite understand the concept or purpose and as a result, didn’t utilize the students portfolios to their full potential. But I see this not as a criticism of them, but more a criticism of myself and my explanation of the tool to the teachers. I also didn’t ask all teachers as I wanted the portfolios to have a slow introduction into the students learning. I also didn’t want to overwhelm the teachers and make them think it was extra work (it’s not, I continually reinforced to the students that it was their portfolio and their responsibility). This is fine and I hope it is rehashed with the teachers next year, encouraging all staff to get involved, now that they can see how it looks one year on. Another way that this could be approached is to have teachers developing their own portfolios so that they can see how meaningful they are in the learning process. If the teacher knows, uses and believes in the purpose of the tool, I would assume that the tool would be more widely used in the classroom.

One stumbling point that I came across was the parents reactions. I jumped in feet first, and didn’t educated them enough about the cause. I also didn’t educate my superiors enough because when parents asked them questions about the portfolios, sometimes they couldn’t answer the questions the parents had. As a result, in November, just a few weeks into the implementation of the portfolios, I led a parent information session titled, ‘Digital Citizenship – Educating 21st Century Learners’. Ideally, this should have been at the start of the year, before or as we were starting to implement the portfolios for all middle school students. If I had the chance again, I would implement more regular, informal parents sessions as well, just so they understood where technology integration and implementation is leading and to break down the fear that is sometimes associated with new technology. In the future, I have to remember to get the parents and admin on board, even if it is a project that I plan to implement myself, in my class time. I have to make sure all stakeholders understand why the students are making their own portfolios, why they are so important, what amazing benefits they offer and also the possible risks and how we plan to address these issues.

This was the main reason why I didn’t end up introducing the portfolios to Grade 3 and 4. I saw the resistance from parents as a sign that maybe we aren’t ready to go down into the junior school with portfolios just yet and if we can show how effective they are in the middle school, then maybe the junior school parents and teachers can also see the amazing benefits. I do think that the students could manage the portfolios very easily, but I think it would take some education to get all stake holders on board.

In the end, I was very proud of how the middle school students utilized their portfolios this school year. There are some amazing posts and they look great. The students are working things out for themselves (Maybe all caps isn’t a good way to write? Maybe a different colour text for each line isn’t really necessary?) and I feel it’s really showing their thought process and learning.

I would also really recommend it to any educator that started to think about doing this in their own classroom. The ways that work can be displayed is not possible on paper. The fact students constantly reflect and write to a huge audience is not possible on paper either. Having a real world audience, where teachers, principals, parents, grandparents, family, etc. can all read and follow a students progress is so powerful! Students understand the implications of a wide, authentic audience and want to perform at their best. Plus the real world digital citizenship experience and trust that I gave the students to have their own publish space online is a huge benefit to any classroom.

A quote from a keynote by Rushton Hurley. The photo is from Heather Durnin's class in the midst of a live radio show. From by Dean Shareski.

I urge you to read some posts by my students and give some feedback, they love comments as much as adults! Here is an RSS feed of all of the middle school portfolios, I hope you enjoy them!

 

MY RELATED POSTS

– Why open online portfolios?

– Community building around Technology

– Digital Citizenship – Educating 21st Century Learners

– 7 tips for writing a good reflection

13 iOS Apps For Education

iOS devices (iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone) are becoming increasingly popular in the education setting. Due to their prices, easy accessible for students of all ages and their versatile uses, I see them as a great tool for teaching and learning.

I have been using them for two years now, purely as a tool for learning. I find the utilities such as the still camera, video cameras, the sound recordings, etc. great tools for classroom use. I think when people start to see the apps as a silver bullet, magic pieces of software that are going to replace something they do in their classroom as naive. The apps you want developed are only going to be made if there is demand and if someone can profit from it, just like a website. Like all technology, the iOS devices need to be used as tools for learning, not replacements for teaching.

In saying that, here is a list of the apps I would make sure are on any iOS device I used to help me utilize the technology as a tool for teaching and learning.

 

Evernote

USE: Taking notes and saving files

PRICE: Free

Essential for staying organizing. The great part is that you can also sync the account with any other device you own. So if your using iPads/iPods/iPhones you can easily access notes, PDF’s, videos, photos and anything you have stored in Evernote on all devices. You can read more about it in one of my former posts.

 

Instagram

USE: Taking and sharing photos

PRICE: Free

Not an essential app for education, but one that has so much opportunity in the classroom. Instagram is a simple photo taking app that adds filters to give it a vintage look to your photos. The other part of Instagram is the social network. It has it’s own social network, which is a stream of photos that you see from people you follow. The other great feature is it’s so straight forward to share on other social networks like facebook, Twitter, etc. This app could have many applications. It could be used in an art class to provide opportunity to practice photography skills. Or students could sync their account with their own or a class Twitter account or blog to update parents about the work they are doing in class. A great way to show the learning that is taking place in the classrooms.

 

WiFi Photo Transfer

USE: Transferring photos from device to computer

PRICE: Free

A simple app that makes your device into a wireless server so that you can access the photos or videos you have taken wirelessly. No more lost cables. No more forgotten cables. It’s free and makes your workflow that much quicker.

 

Vimeo

USE: Recording, editing and uploading videos

PRICE: Free

Not only record, but edit and upload straight to Vimeo from this amazing free app. This bring so many possibilities for the classroom.

 

Pocket

USE: Saving pages to be read later offline

PRICE: Free

Formerly called Read It Later, this is a great app that allows you to flag web pages in a browser and access them later. When the pages are viewed in Pocket, it takes out all adds, images, etc. and just leaves the text. It also downloads the pages so they can be viewed offline. So if you are in a subway or if you in the park and you don’t have WIFI access, you can still read the pages you have flagged. This would be perfect for students that have to read from sites or Wikipedia entries. It helps take away the distraction and they can read the articles anywhere, anytime. In the park on the weekend, on the bus on the way home from school, at lunch time in the playground, etc.

 

Twitter

USE: Twitter client

PRICE: Free

Personally I used HootSuite as my Twitter client, but the official Twitter app is easy to use and manage. In the classroom, with younger classes I’d have one class account and have the students follow people related to the field they are studying. I’d also have them post about things they are learning, questions, etc. Parents could follow the account and see what was happening in the classroom. For older students, they could create their own account and tweet out to the world. The other great thing about this is that you can set up the Twitter account on the device in the System Preferences and be able to use Twitter integrated into all other aspects if iOS5. If you don’t have iOS5, you will have to update first, it’s free and awesome.

 

Posterous

USE: Blogging

PRICE: Free

Posterous is a blogging platform. The app is an easy way to compose and publish posts to your blog. Personally, I use my own hosted version of WordPress and I have my students use Blog.com but Posterous could be used quickly and easily from an iOS device to publish blog post. To see why I think students should be blogging, read this post.

 

Keynote

USE: Creating presentations

PRICE: US$9.99

Just like Keynote on a Mac, Keynote for iOS is a quick and easy way to create presentations. With the use of iCloud, these presentations can be accessed on a Mac wirelessly. Another option is to buy a VCA adapter and have the students/teachers present straight from their device.

The results of this app are amazing, here is just one great presentation composed entirely on the iOS Keynote app, from pictures to text to slides.

 

SoundCloud

USE: Recording and sharing audio

PRICE: Free

Create a SoundCloud account, take a recording of anything (a voice, an instrument, a speech, etc.) and upload it directly to the SoundCloud account. There are so many educational possibilities!

 

iWriteWords

USE: Handwriting practice

PRICE: US$2.99

This is a great way to teach old things in new ways. It would be perfect for kindergarten students up to Grade 1 or 2 and the great thing about it is that it helps students form correct sequencing of the letter development. Students must write their letters in the correct sequence (E.g. top to bottom) or they can’t move on to the next letter. If your a stickler for hand grips, then you could always get a stylus.

 

Maps

USE: Mapping

PRICE: Free (pre installed)

Whatever you would use Google Maps for, you can use this app for. The bonus of this app is that depending how you connect to the internet, you can have access to your current GPS data in real time. A world of education possibilities, from treasure hunts and orienteering to a range of geography lessons.

 

Compass

USE: Finding directions

PRICE: Free (pre installed)

Just like a regular compass but based on GPS not magnetism.

 

Calculator

USE: Making calculations

PRICE: Free (pre installed)

Everyone needs a calculator every now and then.

Tech Integration VS Tech Classes

Currently I teach at a school where we have dedicated technology lessons for all students from kindergarten through to Grade 7. Each class gets 40 minutes a week in a lab with a technology teacher, me!I know of other schools that address technology the same way. Some schools have this approach and I guess it’s down to the schools philosophy on education as well as it’s philosophy on technology as to how technology is used in and out of the classroom.

Another way to approach technology, that I see a lot of the leading institutions now doing, is to give every student a laptop. Running a 1:1 programs means students have their own computer that is used by students not only at school, but also at home. A lot of these schools see technology as a tool for learning and as a result, don’t have any specific technology lessons. The technology is embedded and integrated into the curriculum and used when appropriate. They employ technology coaches to help the teachers implement this across the curriculum. I see this is a much more meaningful way to use technology. But it is not without flaw.

I believe in using technology as a tool, but I think the stand alone classes are great at making sure that all students are receiving access to technology, no matter their homeroom/subject teachers ability with technology or what technology they have at home. With a 100% integration model, the students use is limited to their teachers willingness to use technology. You could argue that time should be mandated for each class to use technology, or say that each class must do at least one project incorporating technology per unit of work. And I’m sure that some schools do place expectations on how much technology should be used, but this would go against the ‘technology as a tool’ philosophy. It would be used for the sake of it, which I don’t think is how it should be approached.

I can see other positive aspects of standalone technology lessons too. One would be that the same (hopefully correct) message is being expressed to all students about technology or it’s use. Be it about Copyright or being a responsible online citizen or how to organize your email account. All students are actually taught these concepts explicitly so a student can’t simply ‘slip through the cracks’ and not get the important lessons on technology and it’s use.

On the other hand, the benefits I see of an integration approach is that with the use of a coach to guide the teachers learning, teachers are developing their own ability instead of ignoring technology and passing on that responsibility to the person teaching the stand alone class. With an integration approach, technology needs to be taught by all teachers and therefore needs to be used by all teachers. At least used enough to meet their professional responsibilities. Some teachers might take this freedom and run with it, developing outstanding, interactive, engaging lessons that incorporate technology. Some might do the bare minimum. But at the end of the day, the teacher is learning along with the students. And with the integration approach, the technology is being used as a tool, not a subject, which I think is the most important aspect.

In weighing up these pros and cons, I don’t think any one approach is ‘correct’, it is simply a different approach. There are upsides and downsides to both models. I think the model that needs to be chosen comes down to how the school sees technology and it’s educational vision.

Ideally, I see a combination of both models as the best approach. An integration model where students and teachers use technology as a tool and are guided by a tech coach. There is a shared responsibility with all teachers to embed technology into the curriculum. As well as some time with a specialty technology teacher touching on responsible online citizenship, organization, how to make their workflow more productive, etc.

Obviously this is my opinion at this point in my career, I’m very excited to see if it will change in the future and what experiences will make me change my mind. The future seems bright!

3 Essential Tools I Use To Monitor And Maintain My Computer

Owning a Mac, I find I have to do very little maintenance to my machine. It runs well majority of the time and only slows down when I have had it on for weeks or have 15 applications opened at once. However, I still find it important to monitor my computer to make sure it’s running at an optimal level. These are the tools I use to monitor and maintain my computer.

 

iStat Pro

iStat Pro is a free widget that is installed into your dashboard. It helps monitor your system so you know what is happening on your computer. The features include:

  • CPU usage – to monitor how much your processor is being used as a percentage.
  • Memory usage – this is great as it can usually help you determine why your computer is running slowly. If the graph is completely blocked out in a single colour, it means you need to reset your computer to free up some memory, or use FreeMemory (see below) to help you out with that one.
  • Disk Capacity – you can see how much space you have used and how much space you have free for any disk you have attached such as your computers hard drive, an external hard drive, a network drive, a USB drive, etc. I try to make sure I stay under 80-85% capacity on any drive I use to help prevent crashes and keep my computer running fast. Whenever a drive gets full, it significantly decreases it’s speed.
  • Temperatures – you can monitor the temperature of any part of your computer. If you have your laptop on a soft surface, it may block the fans at the back of the computer and make the computer very hot. This is not good for the computer so this section allows you to monitor the heat of any part of your computer and act accordingly.
  • Fans – I don’t monitor this section very much, but this can also help you understand why your computer is loud or heating up.
  • Battery – this helps you determine your battery health (how much of the original capacity of your battery that it can now be charged to), cycles (how many times your battery has been charged when it has reached below 50% capacity), charge percentage and remaining time before it’s empty. To keep your battery healthy, make sure you fully charge it, then fully drain till it shuts down and full charge it again at least once a month. I set a pop up reminder in iCal and have it pop up once a month to remind me to do this.
  • Uptime – this is one section I use a lot. I rarely turn my computer off (looking at my uptime now it’s up to 22 days), because I usually just close my laptops lid to put it to sleep. This allows me to start up my computer quickly from it’s sleep and my machine seems to run well doing this. However, when my computer is running slow, chances are it’s because it has been on for too long. To correct this problem I have to restart my machine to free up some memory and make my machine run fast again.
  • Processes – these are the applications that are running and how much CPU power or memory they are consuming. You can see what applications are really stretching your computers performance or see whether all of those applications being open at once really effect your machine.

I find iStat Pro invaluable for monitoring my computers performance. A quick peak at it usually tells me why my computer is not performing at it’s optimal level and I can act accordingly.

 

FreeMemory

FreeMemory is a free Mac OSX app store download. That means it can be accessed from the app store that is on your Mac desktop or Mac laptop. This is not to be confused with the iTunes app store. The OSX app store helps you download a range of software to your computer, even iWorks (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) can be downloaded in the OSX app store so it’s very convenient. However, the apps are generally fairly expensive. FreeMemory is one exception to this rule. It works the same as the memory usage section of iStat Pro but it displays your memory usage in your menu bar all the time. So if your computer is running slow, a quick glance to your menu bar can help determine the problem. The app also helps you clear memory, but that feature takes a long time to complete. To clear the memory fast and more effectively just restart your computer. But for monitoring your memory usage in real time, it works great.

 

 

Broom

Broom is a great app from the same makers of FreeMemory that allows your find and delete large files on your computer. It only cost 99 cents US and is a cinch to use. It helps you locate files in three sections, Places, Folders and Files. The Places section is handy because it searches your caches, logs, trash and downloads folder and tells you how much space each of these sections are taking up. You’d be surprised how many files end up in the caches and logs sections! To delete them, just select the section you want to delete and click the ‘Remove Selected’ button at the bottom of the app, couldn’t be easier!

In the Files and Folders sections, it makes a list of all of the files and folders on your computer and how big they are, so you can sort them by size order and see which files are really taking up a lot of space.

 

These are just some of the tools I use regularly to maintain and monitor my machine. Do you also use these tools? Are there any that you use regularly? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Finding A Problem and Solving It

After watching the TEDx talk below by Dan Meyer, I was inspired to try something like it in my class.

But I didn’t know what problem we could work on. I wanted the problem to be meaningful to the students. I wanted them to come up with a problem to solve and I think I knew the answer. In one of my classes, one of my students was looking through a pile of old yearbooks. She found on of when she was in Grade 1 and we had a chuckle at how cute the now teenagers looked when they were young. Then we started seeing some people we knew but no longer go to the school. We counted how many students that attended the school that were still enrolled now they were in Grade 8. There were only about six students… Six students! My student found this fascinating and asked me how many I thought would be left at the end of Grade 12. This gave me an idea…

I developed a unit where the students would follow this same process of seeing how many students are in the class that also attended in Grade 1. Then from graphing the results and looking at past data, they could estimate how many of them would be left in a couple of years time. All of the data will be really easy to attain by simply flicking through some past yearbooks. I think my students will really enjoy this unit and I can’t wait to teach it!