Thursday, March 31, 2016

OpenDNS Family Shield - A Good Option for Home Network Monitoring

Family Shield, powered by OpenDNS, is a service that can be used to filter the content accessed by anyone on your home network. Family Shield is designed to filter adult websites, proxy and anonymizer websites, and phishing websites. Step-by-step directions are provided for setting-up Family Shield on your home computer(s) and router(s).

Applications for Education
While I generally prefer to emphasize education about the Internet over blocking access to the Internet  I also understand that a lot of parents would still prefer to have a way to restrict the content their children can access from home. If you're asked by a parent for advice on Internet filtering at home, consider referring that person to Family Shield.

Three Things to Consider Before Flipping Your Classroom

Flipping your classroom with video lessons can be a good thing in the right situation. Before you decide to completely flip your classroom there are a few things that you should consider.

1. Do the majority of your students complete their homework assignments on time on a consistent basis? If not, there may be a larger issue of student engagement and motivation to investigate. Furthermore, if you flip the classroom and students come to class having not watched the video lessons, how do you spend your classroom time the next day? Do you let students watch the videos in class? Do you reteach the lesson that they should have watched for homework?

2. Do all of your students have access to the web at home? If not, how are you going to address that? Will you distribute copies of your video files to students before they leave your classroom? Do you all of your students have computers or tablets to use at home? If the answer is "no" to one or all of these questions, are you setting up an inequitable learning environment?

3. Do you have time to create quality videos? If not, will you create some and then source the rest of from the web?

For the record, I'm not against flipping the classroom in the right situation. I just don't want to rush into a model that might not be the best solution for all situations.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ten Things You Can Learn at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp

Chromebooks are quickly becoming the preferred choice of computer for 1:1 programs in schools. Chromebooks are reliable, inexpensive, and versatile tools. That said, teaching with Chromebooks may require you to learn some new tricks to make the experience great for you and your students. At the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp on July 18th and 19th we will take an in-depth look at how to effectively integrate Chromebooks into your practice.

Ten things you can learn at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp:
1. How to use Chromebooks effectively even when the wi-fi fails.
2. Efficient workflow processes on Chromebooks.
3. Everything you could ever want to know about Google Apps for Education.
4. Fun and clever ways to teach search skills.
5. Create and manage digital portfolios.
6. Develop engaging video and audio creation projects.
7. Get parents involved with your students' projects in a meaningful way.
8. Digital storytelling with Google Maps.
9. Fun ways to conduct assessment exercises.
10. Anything you've ever wondered about blogging with students.

Register for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp by April 30th and you can save $50 off standard registration. Subscribers to the PracticalEdTech.com newsletter can save an additional $25 by entering the code "subscriber" at checkout.

Have a colleague or two who wants to join you? Special rates are available for two or more people registering from the same school district. Email me richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com for details.

A Mapped & Searchable Archive of American Newspapers

The U.S. News Map is a great resource produced by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The U.S. New Map is an archive of American newspapers printed between 1836 and 1925. You can search the archive by entering a keyword or phrase. The results of your search will be displayed on an interactive map. Click on any of the markers on the map and you'll be shown a list of newspaper articles related to your search term. Click on a listed article to read it on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website.

Applications for Education
The U.S. News Map has a neat playback feature that you can use to see the frequency with which a term or topic appeared in newspapers between 1836 and 1925. That playback feature could be a nice way to show students developments in technology. For example, search the term "telephone" and you'll see peaks and valleys in the frequency with which articles were written about telephones.

H/T to Google Maps Mania and Larry Ferlazzo

Three Ways to Generate Topics for Your School's Blog

Posting new content on a regular basis is one of the best ways to get parents to frequently check your school, library, or classroom blog. Coming up with blog post topics is the struggle that many people have in attempting to regularly update their blogs. At times, I have that problem too. I have three things that I do when I'm struggling to come up with a topic for a blog post.

Three things you can do to generate blog post topics:
1. Look at your email. Scroll through your email to take a look back at some of the questions that you're asking on a regular basis. Write a post or two or three that answer those questions.

2. Look at Google Analytics. If you have Google Analytics installed in your blog or website you can glean a lot of useful information from what is reported about visitors to your blog or website. One of the sections of Google Analytics that is particularly helpful is the section that shows you the keywords people use in searches before landing on your blog or website. Write a post or two related to those keywords.

3. Update old posts. Everything changes in time. What you wrote twelve months ago or even six months ago might need an update. Take a look at some of your old posts and see if any of them need updating.

Bonus tip:
When you find yourself writing a particularly long post, consider breaking into a series of posts. Your one 1000 word post could probably become a two or three part series. Like an 80's sitcom, "a to be continued" can keep people coming back.

Topics like this one and many others will be covered in depth during my spring and summer offerings of Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders