Monday, March 24, 2014

Google Drawing: the Perfect Answer to Graphics Creation for Google Sites

The Twitter was on fire this weekend as #CUE14 in Palm Springs, California and #GAFESummit in Honolulu, Hawaii were in full swing. One might wonder how that could provide me with much professional development, afterall, I'm in Midlothian, Texas...quite a distance from either of those conferences. But ah...The Twittersphere is a treasure trove of resources and I stumbled upon some really fabulous resources, tips, and tricks. In fact, it will take a couple of blog posts to cover some of the new things I learned and contemplated this past weekend So...I am going to begin with the tips that grabbed my attention most...two ways to use Google Drawing for creating dynamic graphics to use in Google Sites. Let me preface this by saying, these tips are prime examples of workarounds that will actually solve some issues I personally have with the limitations of Google Sites...AND, they led me to solve another issue I had with graphics and Google Sites. So needless to say, I am really excited about these!

Tip #1 I spotted the tweet below and thought...Wow; that's cool; I love that the graphic automatically updates if changed. Notice this does not include converting the drawing to JPGs. 

Instructions to follow:
  1. Just keep the drawing within Google Drive.
  2. In Google Sites, go to the INSERT menu and insert the Google Drawing directly from Google Drive.
  3. Before you insert, make sure you uncheck the border and the title. That gives this a cleaner look.
  4. Check out the graphic below:

Another method:
  1. Go to the File Menu in Google Drawing
  2. Click on Publish to the Web
  3. Copy the URL for the graphic 
  4. Go to the Insert Menu in Google Sites, select URL and paste the graphic URL into the window.

Implications for Implementation:
What caught my attention here was the idea of an automatic update if the drawing was changed. I do like the Publish to the Web look better; it has a cleaner look and the viewer can't access the graphic directly in Google Drive.

Another thing I found out: You have to use the Publish to the Web method to use Google Drawing graphics in Blogger, but it works there too!

Tip #2: You can add hyperlinks to the graphics and they work! See the tweet below:
With this method, you can create a graphic for Google Sites with multiple hotspots. Can I have an OMG!? One thing I did find out was using the Publish to the Web doesn't preserve the hyperlinks so if you are using hotspots, you have to Insert directly from Google Drive.

Implications for Implementation:
Many times I've wanted to post graphics of apps with links directly to download, but in Google Drive, you really had to make them in a table, get everything aligned, manipulate code to make the table disappear...just a headache. Now all of this can be done ahead of time in Google Drawing and if you change or update any element, it automatically updates on the site! Can I have another OMG!?

Tip #3: Now these two tips led me to uncover another needed workaround with regards to placement of multiple graphics to create a collage-type effect using different sized graphics...something that really couldn't be accomplished with Tables in Google Sites because you can't merge cells when needed. Just make your collage in Google Drawings and you've got this covered. I mean how cool is that!?

New Google Update!
Google has added the cropping tool for images in Google Drawing and Google Slides! This is a great addition as you begin to use Google Drawing for creating interactive graphics for your Google Site or for Blogger.

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of some cool things I learned and/or contemplated while lurking on these two fabulous conferences' Twitter feeds! And a big thank you to my PLN for being such #smartees!

Friday, March 7, 2014

SXSWEdu...An Opportunity For Educators To Stake Their Claim

SXSWEdu...where educators collide with edtech entrepreneurs. This is precisely why I love this conference more than any other. It is the time I get to have direct access to those creating many of the tools I love and use. If affords me the opportunity to meet great minds like Shimon Schocken or hear great edtech leaders such as Alfred Solis from the Buck Institute. But it also affords me opportunities to have direct access to discuss my personal needs in a particular tool that I'm not currently getting, i.e. asking Edmodo two years ago for a question randomizer in their quiz tool...they are great for responding to educator needs. In fact, I've not found any of these startups not to be responsive to educator requests. I could go on and on about continual improvements to a variety of tools that are in direct response to teacher input.

Much is tweeted, blogged, and debated about the sad state of the tense relationship between these two sectors in the education profession. While some great points are made by many, I for one, am tired of the teacher mentality that we are victims, no one listens to us, and everyone is against us. Does not making big money really affect our self perceptions that much? I know I'm stepping out on a limb here, probably making a lot of teachers mad, but I am tired this debate. I KNOW what I do is important. I am empowered by my job because I know the influence I have on the next generation. I know how my words, my attitude, my work can shape and mold a student for success OR failure. I don't need anyone to validate that for me. I have the greatest job in the world...I love what I do. Is it hard? Yes. Do I feel like quitting sometimes? Yes. But that's life, move on. 

Don't get me wrong; I loved the EdSurge article raising questions about the role of teachers influencing emerging educational technology. But here's where I depart from the mainstream of thought...we as educators just need to stake our claim, stop making excuses, and if you don't like something, step up to the plate. At the end of the conference yesterday, a couple of teachers complained to one panel that teachers were under represented and why wasn't a teacher asked to be on their panel. I would like to ask "Why didn't you put a panel together and invite some representatives from the edtech industry?" As an educator, I have the opportunity to hear from educators on a daily basis; what I love about SXSWEdu is having the opportunity to have dialogue other sectors of our profession. This conference is not TCEA, which I also love, but this conference, in my opinion, is not so much about the "how to" but more about the "why or why not". There was some Twitter conversation following TCEA by David Jakes about sessions moving beyond the tools: 

While I totally agree with Jakes here, SXSWEdu is the perfect venue for this! Teacher-led panels on provocative topics that move past the tools will get selected. The sector I do feel that is underrepresented is the administrators. This conference is the opportunity to catch a vision for their district.

So where does that leave us? Maybe there does need to be a little fence mending, but frankly, this debate is getting old. Suggestions have been made by teachers for these entrepreneurs to visit classrooms, see what's going on...Teachers, again I say, stake your claim...invite them in, have them visit and meet the students using their tools. Like I tell students who are feeling left out of a clique, it's a two-way street. It can be done. Last week, we invited the app developer of Write About This, Brad Wilson, to do a Google Hangout with a 2nd grade bilingual classroom. He specifically asked the students to send him any ideas they had to make his app better. 

I guess I just want to go on record as saying I love this conference for its direct access to these edtech companies, networking events, and its efforts to bring educators to the table. We just need to realize we deserve to be there. I look forward to next year!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hour of Code is Not Just For the Techie Nerds!

While the big push for the Hour of Code was mid December, 2013, we're still at it! has created some tremendous content that makes it so easy for even the least techie among us to begin to understand the process of coding...and it doesn't matter if you're in kindergarten or a senior in high school; they have provided content available for all fact, the option I chose said it was for everyone from 6 to 106! Check out this informational video below:

The website has some great opportunities and resources that teachers can utilize to in classroom with their students. There is even a K-8 Introduction to Computer Science curriculum!

Here are some 2nd grade bilingual students from Martha Lackey's class at J.A. Vitovsky Elementary that have taken the challenge:

Many may be asking why the big push for teaching coding...but there has been a lot written about how many jobs in the future are going to need these skills and we just aren't educating enough students to fill those positions. But beyond the future job market, it's a great opportunity to teach critical thinking skills, problem solving skills as well as creativity. In the video below, Mitch Resnick, director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab, discusses the importance of young people becoming fluent in expressing themselves with new technologies, having the ability to go beyond just searching for information or navigating the Internet. He stated that not only are kids learning to code, they are coding to learn because as they code, it enables them to learn many other things. 

At FETC 2014, Google Senior Education Evangelist, Jaime Casap commented that we need to view technology as today's education infrastructure. Technology in and of itself is not education's silver bullet, great education is. Technology is meant to support that great education. With that in mind, it seems logical that we begin to integrate these skills into our curriculum in an effort to take learning deeper.

A way to extend the learning of computer coding: have students write about their experiences. This learning provides great opportunities for writing procedural narrative...expository writing that is difficult for the younger students. The writing also provides students that time to reflect on their coding experiences, taking the learning to a deeper level. So jump on the coding bandwagon with us as we embark on this adventure.

Monday, February 17, 2014

TCEA 2014 iPad Academy App Spotlight

It's been 13 days since the 2014 TCEA iPad Academy and after exploring many of the resources we gathered for our Thinglink, there were a few apps I wanted to spotlight for learning, content creation, and productivity. There were many highlights for the day and the apps smackdown at the end really provided some great tips, tricks, and resources that capped off the academy. Below are some apps I think might need a deeper look. Check them out and let me know if you find some interesting ways in which to utilize them.

Apps for Content Creation:

Here are four great apps that will allow your students to create some slick looking digital content. By the way, all of these apps are FREE! Comic Maker is a great app that students love because of the comic strip theme. Story Me is a similar option and provides students with a little more variety. I love Face Talker! This is a quick way to check for understanding or present research on a particular subject. Slide Shark is great because you can annotate right on top of the PowerPoint slides and all your animations and videos come through on this app!

Apps for Learning:

Here are a couple of apps for learning. Even though Daisy the Dinosaur is for ages four+, this is a great app to introduce the concept of coding. A by-product of this app is developing vocabulary, especially for the bilingual students. Math Duel is cool because of the split screen to allow for 2 players. This is an engaging way to hone your math skills.

Apps for Productivity:

The apps listed here are AMAZING! With CloudOn, You can actually share and edit Microsoft documents such as PowerPoint on the iPad! It has a share feature that allows you to invite collaborators. Another similar app is Documents. This is a great file manager; it replaces a document viewer, PDF reader, download manager, and music player all in one app! Sound Gecko is a great app for turning the web into audio for your listening pleasure! The last app mentioned here is Flowboard. It probably should have been listed with Content Creation apps, but you can also add links from the web to your Flowboad. I'm going out on a limb here...I think this may be my favorite app reviewed here! I think the possibilities are endless here.

I wanted to mention a couple of blog posts by Richard Byrne that he's posted recently that I thought were pretty interesting. The first one was about kids becoming animators with the free app, Creative Kids. You can read more about this post here.

Another great post of his was 10 Great Apps for a Teacher's New iPad. I think he's done a great job of detailing which apps to begin with! By the way, he mentioned the app Box. This app is similar to Dropbox and if you download and install now, you get upgraded from 10 to 50gb free storage. Sadly, this offer expired February 15, 2014.