Wednesday, April 20, 2016

5 Questions to Consider in BYOD Schools

This post originally appeared on one of my other blogs,

More schools are allowing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) now than even just a few years ago. As a teacher BYOD can be a good thing as it allows students to work with a computer, tablet, or phone with which they are familiar. At the same time, BYOD can be a bad thing if you or the school leadership hasn't thought through all of the implications and ramifications of BYOD. To that end, here are five things that should be thoughtfully considered as you move to BYOD.

1. Can you find apps and sites suitable for all students' devices?
When every student uses the same school-provided computer or tablet you don't have to worry about this question too much because you simply pick a site or app that works on one device and you're all set. In a BYOD environment you will have a variety of operating systems, versions of operating systems, and display sizes. For BYOD environments I always try to find web apps that are coded in HTML5 so that I have the best chance of the app or site working on all devices.

2. Can your network handle the number of devices that will be added to it?
This is a question for the IT department to answer. Once you allow students to add their devices to your wireless network you're going to have a massive uptick in traffic. Are you prepared? Along the same line, are you ready to support helping students figure out how to add a myriad of devices to your network.

3. Are you going BYOD to save money by not providing computers to students?
If so, you're missing the point of BYOD. Using BYOD as a reason to not provide students with computers creates an unequal environment for students. BYOD should be a supplement, not a replacement for a 1:1 program.

4. How are your students going to share files and or print files?
As a classroom teacher who will be collecting assignments from students think about the way in which you want to collect those assignments. In a Google Apps for Education environment you might use Google Classroom or Google Drive. In other settings you might need to create a Dropbox or Box folder to which students submit files. If it's printed work that you need, are your students going to be able to connect to a network printer or will you have to do all of the printing from a school-issued computer? If you're not sure, ask a member of your IT staff before those printed assignments are due.

5. How will you handle inappropriate use of mobile phones?
In the 8th grade I got in trouble for reading a Field & Stream article that I had stuffed inside my Algebra textbook. My point being that students texting in class is a classroom management issue, it's not the fault of the device being present in the classroom any more than Field & Stream was to blame for me not paying attention to my Algebra teacher, Mr. Dorsey.

We'll be talking about this topic and many others during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp this summer. Early discounted registration is on sale now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Now You Can Choose Which Google Drive Files Are Synced for Offline Access

For years now we have been able to sync Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets for offline access on our laptops and Chromebooks (learn how). That was great, but it didn't typically sync your all of your older files. Soon that will change as Google has announced an update to Google Drive that will allow you to specify which files you want to sync for offline access. To do this you will simply open a file's overflow menu (that little three dot icon to the far right of your file) and toggle the "available online" switch.

This feature will roll out over the next few days. The feature is only available if you are using the Chrome web browser. Users in a Google Apps for Education domain will also need to make sure that their domain administrators have enabled offline access for Google Drive.

Learn more about using Google Apps for Education in my online course (graduate credit available) or at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp.

A Lesson on Bears and Punnett Squares

A recent conversation with a friend about black bears in our neighborhood (neighborhood is a relative term as I live on a six acre woodlot) reminded me about a neat National Geographic article that I read about five years ago. Back then National Geographic magazine had a cover story about the "Spirit Bears" of British Columbia. "Spirit Bear" refers to the Black Bears that are white in color due to a recessive trait called Kermodism. As always the National Geographic website has some neat resources to support the main article. One of the online resources for the Spirit Bear article is a Punnett Square that explains how two black Black Bears can produce a white Black Bear.

On a related note, National Geographic has a short video about photographing Polar Bears in their natural environments that you might find interesting. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The story of the Spirit Bear could provide a good backdrop to an introductory lesson in genetics.

Scrible Edu Helps Students Organize Research

Scrible is a free service that offers a nice tool to help students organize their online research efforts.

Scrible offers a Chrome extension that includes tools for highlighting, creating sticky notes, and altering the font on any webpage that you save in your Scrible account. Scrible also offers an option for formatting bibliographies while you bookmark. And to help you organize your favorite parts of articles Scrible allows you to compile your article clippings into one package accessible through your Google Account.

Scrible's Google Docs Add-on provides students with access to all of their saved resources. From the Add-on students can insert inline citations into their documents. Scrible also formats a bibliography for students based upon the citations that they insert into their documents. MLA, APA, and Chicago style bibliography formatting is available through Scrible's Google Docs Add-on.

As many teachers have pointed out over the years, automated bibliography generators don't always format citations with 100% accuracy. That's why Scrible's Google Docs Add-on lets students edit the formatting of a citation.

Applications for Education
Scrible's Google Docs Add-on could prove to helpful to students who are writing research papers that are primarily based upon online research. Scrible's Google Docs Add-on does not support book or periodical citations unless students are subscribed to one of Scrible's paid plans.

GeoGebra Exam Mode Lets You Choose Which Tools Your Students Can Use During Tests

GeoGebra, a free mathematics modeling tool, seems to be continuously improving and in the process becoming more and more popular with teachers. Thanks to Guillermo at Math and Multimedia, last weekend I learned about GeoGebra's exam mode.

GeoGebra's exam mode allows you to specify which GeoGebra tools can and cannot be used during an exam. Exam mode runs in full screen so that students cannot access other browser tabs while using GeoGebra during an exam. If a student does exit the full screen the top of the screen turns to make it easy for a teacher to spot when a student has exited full screen mode.  GeoGebra keeps a log of when students start using exam mode, when the exit full screen, and when the re-enter exam mode.

Applications for Education
GeoGebra offers an extensive set of suggestions and guidelines for using exam mode. One of the suggestions that stood out to me was the idea of coming up with an "emergency protocol" with your students in case they accidentally leave exam mode or their computers freeze.

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