Tag Archives: education

What Politicians are Not Talking About

I have been meaning to write this post since this article appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal a couple of weeks ago. The focus of the article is about the large cuts that states like Nevada, Arizona, and Florida would see in their share of the Perkins Grant funding. I have sat in numerous conferences and meetings and I almost understand the hold harmless provision in the Perkins funding. The general gist of the funding is that if the Department of Education does not allocate X number of dollars for Perkins Grant funding in their budget, all of the states go back to the funding they received in 1998 (or some year close to that).

Nevada experienced a large growth in students between 1998 and now and that is why there is the potential for a 41% cut in career and technical education funding. One of the few bright spots in education in Nevada and especially in Clark County is the career and technical education programs. A 41% cut statewide with severely impact the programs that can be offered.

I have yet to see anyone running for a political office in Nevada address this issue. Of course, they are also ignoring all the other issues related to education so I am not sure how offended I should be. I am starting to think that the first candidate to deliver a meaningful speech on education in Nevada is going to get my vote.

Pre-ISTE Conference

I leave tomorrow for my first ISTE conference. I spent a couple of hours last night going through the program and the concurrent sessions listed on the ISTE Conference website. ISTE makes it easy for you to keep track of the sessions that you want to attend. If I like a session, I just click “Add to Planner” and it adds it to my digital planner on the ISTE conference site – which I can download later. I go through all 13 sessions and then check my planner to see what my schedule looks like. Like most conferences, there are multiple sessions at the same time that I would like to attend, but there were a few time slots where I had up to four sessions that I had added to the planner. I am sure that this will get reduced when a couple of co-workers and I decide to divide and conquer through the sessions.

As it stands right now, the majority of the sessions that I want to attend focus on iPad apps, Google Apps, and blended learning environments. I love technology and attending sessions on these topics and,hopefully, it will make my life easier when presenting professional development in the fall and when presenting new content to students. I will try and post updates on this blog and on Twitter throughout the conference.

Adventures in Google Apps for Education

A friend of mine recently asked me via Twitter if I would write a blog post about becoming a Google Apps school. I was not involved in the initial setup of the Google Apps for our school. Another teacher had signed the school up and started the initial process of the Google Apps at our school. What I am going to describe is our school’s evolution with Google Apps over the couse of the 2010-11 school year.

The initial purpose behind using Google Apps was to allow each teacher to create Google calendars for each class and insert his/her lesson plans in the calendar. In the first year that our school was open (2009-10), every teacher had posted lessons online either through personal Google accounts, Moodle, or uploaded PDF files via Dreamweaver. The lack of consistency in posting lessons and methods of posting lessons was troublesome to our administration and they had decided to have the staff use Google calendars. On the very first day back to work last year, I did a presentation on and helped every teacher sign-in to their accounts, create the calendars, enter events, and embed the calendars onto their class website.

The teacher who initially set up the Google Apps also set up accounts for the students in his program areas and my program areas which is about 180 students on a campus of just over 1000 students. I can only explain my (and a third teacher across the hall) progression through Google Apps. I started off small. I had every student login to their calendar and subscribe to the calendars of his/her other teachers. This allowed every student to see what was happening in all of their classes in one location. Since our school was also piloting a 1 to 1 program with the iPod Touch, my juniors also made sure they had access to their calendars on the iPod.

Once I got the calendars squared away, I moved into Google Docs. I started small here as well. My students initially typed assignments in Google Docs and when they finished they shared the document with me. I would provide feedback to the students in the document and allow them to make any changes if necessary. The students moved on to sharing documents with other students in the class. This was mostly creating group contracts and small presentations, but the students quickly learned that they could be more productive if four of them were working on a document simultaneously instead of watching one person type the entire document. In addition, I started making my deadlines due earlier to force simultaneous work and avoid having one person do all the work. Small group contract assignments eventually grew into large scale documents when my students created complex documents like a user guide for Maya and a game design document for their senior capstone project.

At first, I was content with just using the calendar and documents, but curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see what else I could do. I moved to creating groups by graduation year. I mainly did this because I didn’t want to recreate groups this year and the graduation year of my students isn’t going to change. I started creating discussion questions that students would reply to at the beginning of class. Some of these posts were simple recall questions about the previous lectures, some were to provoke a debate, and some of the posts were designed to have my students write multiple choice questions about the material covered in class (some of which I used on tests).

The last big step in our school’s use of Google Apps came in a meeting about student portfolios. Our school is going to require that each student will complete a digital portfolio by the end of his/her senior year. We discussed several options and decided that using Google Sites was going to be our best option. This decision was made because using the school’s Google Apps account, we can control outside access to the portfolios and believed that every student, regardless of technical skills, would be able to complete a professional-looking portfolio.

At this time, only 10% of our student population had a Google Apps account. I was able to import the remainder of the student body using an Excel spreadsheet. The teacher across the hall and I taught the web design juniors how to create and modify a Google site and had them create some basic templates for other students to use. Once the web design juniors were proficient, we invited the other 10 program area juniors into our classrooms for a 30 minute lesson on setting up a portfolio. The other program area students logged into their accounts for the first time, selected a portfolio template, and had one-on-one time with another student to learn how to modify a Google site. While the juniors were getting lessons on the portfolios from their peers, the freshman were learning how to use Google Sites in their computer-based projects class. The only grade level that did not receive training last year was the sophomore class. This was mainly due to time constraints and that grade level will be trained at the beginning of this school year.

I realize that I have covered a lot in this post and I’m not positive that I got everything. One feature that we do not use is Gmail because the district has it’s own email system for students. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them to this post, email me, or send me a message via Twitter.

iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom (Pt. 3)

This is part three of three about my presentation at NACTE 2011 on managing a classroom using the iPad and Google Apps. In part one, I focused on the reasons why a teacher would want to use these tools, the Google calendar, and Google Docs. In part two, I focused on using Google forms and the iPad to grade students and give the students quick feedback. In this final part, I will discuss the other apps that I use on my iPad.

The first application that I use in my classroom is Dropbox.com. While I like to use Google Docs for assignments like spreadsheets, word processing, and presentations, I love using Dropbox.com for larger projects and atypical files like Photoshop, Flash, and Maya. I have created an account where I share the password with all of my students. My students will submit their work to the appropriate folder from their computers. At the end of class, I move the Dropbox folder on my computer to the desktop and grade their work from there. I am also able to send students files via Dropbox when I decide not to use Remote Desktop. In addition, I have the Dropbox.com app on my iPad and can let the students know from anywhere in the classroom whether or not I received their submissions.

The second app I frequently use on my iPad is CalenGoo. I like CalenGoo because I can create my lesson plans for each class without having to be online. I will have to sync it wirelessly later, but I am able to get some work done when I am at locations without free WiFi.

Another app that I like to use is Office2 HD. Like CalenGoo, I am able to create documents without being online at Google and sync them later on. I also like the way Google Docs, especially spreadsheets, work in Office2 HD rather than online on an iPad.

While this app does not have any sync capabilities with the software we use at our school, I still like Attendance. I do use it for an unofficial attendance record, but I am also able to create custom attendance fields. This is important for me because I can track when a student does not dress appropriately for my Industry Attire Days. Since these days are worth points in my class, it is easy to remember who receives full credit. This app would be excellent for any PE teachers that use iTouch devices to keep track of their attendance. The Attendance app also comes in helpful during fire drills because I can quickly take roll outside and not have to try and remember who was absent at the beginning of class.

The final app that I use frequently in class is Evernote. I will probably write a future post discussing all of the different ways that I use Evernote, but for now, I will say that I don’t use an app on my iPad, iPhone, or computer as much as I use Evernote. Evernote is a reference guide for all lesson plans, lesson ideas, interesting articles, and planning projects. I also take pictures of my lecture notes on the board and post them to a shared notebook that all of my students can access. I do pay for the premium version, even though, I don’t think I come close to using my full data allotment because of the high quality of Evernote.

This concludes the explanation of my presentation on how to use the iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom.

NACTE 2011

The Nevada Association of Career and Technical Education (NACTE) held it’s annual conference last week in Lake Tahoe. After missing last year’s conference to attend SIGGRAPH, I was looking forward to attending this year. I always like to meet with teachers that teach in a similar field from across the state. In addition, I was presenting during one of the breakout sessions on the use of iPads and Google Apps to manage a classroom (details to come in the near future).

The focus of the keynote speakers were on budget cuts that Career and Technical Education (CTE), and specifically Nevada, are facing. The opening keynote speaker was Kimberly Green who is the Executive Director for the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium. Ms. Green did an excellent job of focusing on the challenges that CTE faces nationally and how it applies to Nevada. Once Ms. Green completed her speech, I think that many teachers in the room were feeling a little depressed about the outlook. I will admit that I was a little depressed, but I can either go through the rest of my educational career depressed over federal and state finances or I can get motivated to do something.

The desire to do something instead of nothing is why I have rebranded this blog. I plan on discussing issues that are relevant to CTE, but a blog is not going to be enough to change the outlook for CTE funding. I am currently assessing what else I can do to help champion the importance of CTE besides writing letters to my legislators. I will document my progress on this blog and I encourage all CTE teachers to get involved to insure that CTE is funded and supported at appropriate levels.