Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Classroom Check List for Teachers Before Summer Break

Teachers, it's time to store and secure classroom-related technologies for the summer!

The end of a school year is an exciting time for teachers (especially as you anticipate that much deserved summer break).  I know you have lots of things to do before you leave campus next week.  We, at the Technology Center, want to help you get your room ready for summer cleaning as best as possible so please use the following check list:
  1. Check to see if your room is used for summer staff development or summer school.  If so, please leave your computer, your remotes and your SMART Markers out for whoever uses your room.  I plan to be in the loop throughout the summer so I will keep an eye on things for you (in case that makes you feel better).  I will unplug your computer and related equipment when the time comes to have your room cleaned.  Talk to me if you have specific instructions or concerns regarding technology items.
  2. If your room is NOT being used for summer staff development or summer school, lock up your “easy to walk away items” like projector remotes, SMART Markers, SMART eraser, Document cameras, iPods/iPads.  Put these in a desk drawer or file cabinet and lock them up.  It is also a good idea to place a small piece of scotch tape over each of the pen sensors of your SMART Board to keep the dust out during the summer.  If possible, please unplug your power strip (with cables still plugged in) and place them over your desk.  This will make it easy to plug everything back in after your room is cleaned.  This means that you do not need to disconnect every cable like the past (exceptions are cables running to equipment not on your desk).  If ac adapters are unique to specific equipment, label them so you don’t have to “experiment” in August and risk damaging equipment.
  3. Planning to move classrooms?  If so, DO NOT MOVE equipment.  If you are changing rooms, make sure you have put in a Tech Request letting us know if you need items moved.  Moving them yourself may cause problems down the line.  Keep your computer, monitor, keyboard and mouse out on your desk.  This helps us with summer updates since we anticipate hooking everything back up once the floors are cleaned.
  4. Don’t forget to save your files!  Save anything you have on your desktop to your Z:Drive (the drive with your name on it).  This will be a backed-up copy of what you have on your computer.
  5. Eject any CDs in your computer.  We usually have calls each summer to help someone get their Neil Diamond or Boston CD out of a computer CD/DVD-ROM drive.  We would rather use our time for other dire emergencies (but we understand good road trip music is important)!
  6. Do you have broken or unused technology equipment in your classroom?  If so, let me know and I will arrange for items to be removed.  Be sure to label what works or doesn’t work to make it easy on your favorite campus technology coordinator (yes, I know I am the only one but it sounded good anyway!).
  7. Last, but not least: Have a great summer!  Do something fun every week and be prepared to share the highlights in August!
 - Eddie

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What is your purpose for using visual resources?

All educators know the value of using visuals in the teaching-learning process. Sometimes finding the right visuals require some effort. Save some time and take a look at the below image and consider some visual-based tools organized by specific purposes (click on the image to enlarge it):

Download the PDF and click on the hyperlinks to see actual resources:

Resource found on the TCEA Community web site:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can Google Translate Be Used in the Classroom?

Google Translate is a free automatic language translator. It works without the intervention of human translators, using state-of-the-art technology instead. Google Translate currently supports translation for 57 languages. You can use Google Translate to translate words and phrases in the web-based interface but also translate entire documents or web pages.

Keep in mind that this tool (or any like it) is not designed to replace formal classroom learning or promote student laziness with foreign language homework assignments. If used for insights and special projects across subject matters, then it can be a welcomed tool in the classroom (and outside of it).

Personally, I have used Google Translate when reading and sharing on technology-based message boards that have posts written in non-English. In the process of copying and pasting texts, I noticed my choice of English words and phrases affect the translation and meaning. Observing this has increased my awareness on the matter and encouraged me to think about word selection more carefully. From a 21st century skill stand point, I think this is important as more adult workers need tools and language skills to communicate with clients spread over the globe.

What are your thoughts or ideas?

Web Link to Google Translate:

Download PDF of a Crib Sheet for Classroom Use:

What to learn more about how Google Translate works?:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Google's New Knowledge Graph

A Brief Description of Google's Knowledge Graph

When you search, you’re not just looking for a webpage. You’re looking to get answers, understand concepts and explore.

The next frontier in search is to understand real-world things and the relationships among them. Google's Knowledge Graph is a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they're connected to one another. For example, it will be able to tell if your search for “mercury” refers to the planet or the chemical element which will jump start your discovery.

Check out the introductory video:

Friday, May 11, 2012

"What is Twitter exactly?"

A common question these days as I walk down school halls, help teachers in the classroom, or pickup mail in the copy room is "Eddie, what is Twitter exactly? Please explain to me what it is."

Below are three ways I have explained Twitter to others. Hopefully, one or more of these explanations will help you to "get it" and even motivate you to try it:

1) Basically, Twitter is a micro-blog that allows you to communicate with those "following" you with short statements (almost headline-like since you are limited to 140 characters). This description often leads to more questions like, "So, why would I want to do that?" So, let's move on...

2) Metaphorically, Twitter comments ("tweets") are like water-cooler discussions that tend to be a mix of small talk, FYIs, and social networking. While the water cooler metaphor is helpful it is also limited since it suggests that Twitter is mosty a feed of random and mundane comments. Obviously, Twitter is far more beneficial than that or it would not be so popular. So, let's try again...

3) Potentially, Twitter is a "personal learning network" (PLN). While some tweets may be social ramblings or random acts of sharing, there are quite a few nuggets too -- and some of these are loaded with the potential to inspire, motivate, and engage you in meaningful discussions and learning experiences. This is the lure of Twitter and why I use it. It is what you make it so choose who and what you follow wisely and you will be rewarded in the end.

OK, I know there is one more question that is often asked (and you may have been thinking about it while reading the above): "What is the difference between Facebook and Twitter?" Well, that's a fair question. I use to think that Twitter was simply a scaled down version of Facebook and only offered something similar to Facebook's "wall" of streaming comments which is based on the posts from your friends list. Yes, there are similarities but I learned that Twitter is still unique in concept and doesn't require choosing one tool over the other. In the end, I discovered that I have two separate needs when it comes to social networking tools. Facebook is primarily my social networking tool to stay in touch with family and friends (allowing me to learn about the events of their lives from a comfortable distance and in return share slices of my world with them). Twitter is primarily my learning community tool to network with professional peers and like-minded persons who share my interests and passions (allowing me to learn from their insightful/inspiring comments and in return share my thoughts and perspectives with them). Of course, the above is my personal strategy with these tools.

Well, I started this blog post in an effort to describe Twitter to those who don't have an account (or rarely use it). I can't help but feel that my effort is like explaining to non-swimmers what swimming is like. While I think about refreshing currents and overall benefits, others may think about dangerous waters and risk of drowning. Sometimes you simply have to jump in and figure it out. So, in the words of the popular 80s song by Van Halen: "Jump!" You will be swimming in Twitter-friendly waters in no time!

In case you missed it, below is a web link for yesterday's post: "Twitter Chats for Educators"

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Twitter Chats for Educators

If you don't use Twitter, you are missing out on many opportunities to connect and share ideas with other educators. For about two years I rarely logged into Twitter because I had a hard time seeing the need for one more social networking tool in my daily schedule. That all changed last year when I connected with other technology leaders at Tech Forum in Austin (thanks to Joel Adkins who sent me there). Now I stay connected with other educational technology leaders, learn how other ISDs are using technology, exchange ideas and experiences in education-based discussions, and keep up-to-date to what's happening in the world of instructional technology and e-learning. The beauty of Twitter is that you decide what the TwitterSphere will look like since you decide who and what to follow.

Below are seven Twitter chats to help you connect to other educators and learn more about areas within education as it pertains to you. A brief description and the chat times (based on CST) are provided for convenience but you don't have to wait to use these hash tags in day-to-day tweet ops.

#edchat – Discuss education-based topics every Tuesday @ 11:00 a.m. & 6:00 p.m.

#spedchat – Discuss special education issues every Tuesday @ 7:30 p.m.

#ntchat – New teachers can learn more about teaching every Wednesday @ 7 p.m.

#ptchat – Connect with parents & educators every Wednesday @ 8 p.m.

#teachchat – Connect with teachers every other Wednesday @ 8 p.m. during school year.

#lrnchat – Connect with educators & discuss learning every Thursday @ 7:30-9:00 p.m.

#gtchat – Discuss Gifted & Talented education every Friday @ 11:00 a.m. & 6 p.m.

Note: There are many other Twitter chats specific to your teaching area. Go find them and share them with others in your department.

Bonus Tip for New Twitter users:
Twitter user names begin with "@" (example: @egmathews is my Twitter name)
Twitter topics begin with "#" (hash tags make it easy to search for topics and trends)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012