Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's Not You, It's Everyone! - How to Tell If a Website Is Down

We've all had that feeling of frustration that rises up when you want to use a website and it just won't load. Sometimes the problem is on your end. Sometimes the problem is the site itself. A quick way to check is to enter the site's URL at Down For Everyone Or Just Me? Down For Everyone Or Just Me? won't fix the problem of not being able to access a site, but it will at least let you know if your computer or network is the cause of the problem.

Along the same lines of determining if a site is down or not, the incognito mode in Chrome and privacy mode in Firefox can be useful when you want to see or demonstrate how a site will look to your students when they visit it for the first time.

There are two other occasions on which I use incognito mode in Chrome. First, I use incognito mode when I'm demonstrating how to use a web app or website that requires my username and password. Second, I use incognito mode when I want to show people what a shared or published Google Document looks like when you're not signed into a Google Account. In both cases opening a new browser in incognito mode saves me the hassle of signing out of an account when I know that I'm going to be back into it in a few minutes. Incognito mode thinks that I'm a new user and doesn't have my saved usernames and passwords so I'm able to show sites and documents as they appear when I'm not signed into them.

How to Create Timelines With the RWT Timeline Creator

Read Write Think offers a bunch of great web, iOS, and Android applications for students. Their timeline creation tool is a good one for elementary school and middle school use. RWT Timeline is available as a web app (Flash required), as an Android app, and as an iPad app. All three versions make it easy for students to create a timeline for a series of events. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of the RWT Timeline creation tool.

Applications for Education
The Android and iPad versions of RWT Timeline support multiple user profiles making it a great choice for classrooms that have more students than tablets. The web version of RWT Timeline also supports multiple users.

The aspect of RWT Timeline that I appreciate the most is the flexibility of date formats. In fact, if you look at the following screenshot of my sample timeline you'll see that I didn't use specific dates at all. The use of RWT Timeline doesn't have to be limited to history courses. Students could use RWT Timeline to create timelines of the plot of a story they've read. Or they could use it to plan the plot line of a story they're planning to write.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Enable Offline Use of the Latest Version of Google Drive

Last year I posted directions on how to enable offline use of Google Drive. Those directions are still valid for anyone using the older version of Google Drive. If you're using the latest version of Google Drive, the process is slightly different and much easier.

To enable offline use of Google Drive on a laptop or Chromebook open Drive in a Chrome browser window. You will want to be signed into your Chrome profile while you do this. Now follow the two steps pictured in the screenshots below.

1. Open the gear icon in the upper-right corner of Drive. Select "settings."

2. In the settings window select "Sync your work to this computer so that you can edit offline."

A few things to note about using Drive offline.
  1. Drive will only work offline in a Chrome browser window.
  2. You can use Drive offline on multiple computers, but you need to enable it on each computer individually. 
  3. If you share computers with another person, you may not want to sync to that computer as it could give both people access to the files.  
  4. If you are using Google Drive within a Google Apps for Education domain, your domain administrator will have to enable the option for users to use Google Drive offline.

Video - How to Restrict Access to Edublogs, Blogger, Kidblog, and WordPress Blog Posts

It is always my preference to guide teachers in the direction of teaching their elementary school students not to reveal personally identifying information on classroom blogs. That said, I also recognize that sometimes the only way a teacher will try blogging is if they can restrict access to just students and their parents. The directions in the video below cover the steps you can take to restrict access to Edublogs, KidBlog, and Blogger blog posts. Edublogs and KidBlog run on WordPress. If you're using a WordPress blog, follow the steps outlined for restricting access to Edublogs posts.

You can find screenshots of the process here.

OpenEd Launches a New Site for Finding and Sharing Lesson Materials

OpenEd is a service that has offers a huge catalog of educational videos, games, and practice assessments that you can browse by topic, grade level, or Common Core standard. The service allows teachers to create collections of resources that they share with their students in an online classroom. This week OpenEd released a new beta version of their service.

The beta version of OpenEd includes a selection of pre-built lesson plans full of videos, games, and quizzes for grades 6 through 12 for math and Language Arts. When you create a class on the beta version of OpenEd you will asked to select a grade and the standards that your course addresses. If your selections are math or language arts standards for students in grades six through twelve, you will see the pre-built lessons immediately appear in your OpenEd classroom. You can remove the pre-built lessons and or add more content to them.

Applications for Education
My favorite aspect of is still its search tool. Rather than searching and hoping to find a video on YouTube that matches the standard(s) you're addressing in a lesson, you can start with the standard and have OpenEd locate videos for you.