Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cell Phones for Learning? Get. Out!

After a recent conversation with one of our outstanding librarians, I had to post this one a bit earlier than I'd intended. :-) We're pretty excited about the recent change in our personal device policy.

cc photo courtesy of compujeramy
The idea of using cell phones for learning is one that is gaining more and more attention, mostly from those in the ed. tech world. (If you're interested, check out these compelling blog entries from Wesley Fryer, Will Richardson, & David Warlick.)

An idea that administrations do embrace is the "1:1 initiative" -- one laptop per student. Here's my take: that's not the only direction to go. Anyone working with secondary students knows that cell phones (and iPods) are ubiquitous. And powerful. And much cheaper than a laptop. How many of your students own a cell phone? An iPod (or something like that)? A personal laptop? My guess is that the numbers would go down slightly for question 2 and then go down drastically for that last question, especially in a poorer area.

The fact that cell phones are still banned in the majority of schools across nation means that this idea is not taking hold. Well, not yet. But here at SHHS, teachers can now use cell phones for learning!

Wanna know how we could potentially be using cell phones for teaching & learning? Check out the slideshare from Liz Kolb to see her examples of cell phone projects for education. I'll post the list so you can quickly see what she mentions (comments in italics are mine):
  1. Podcasting. Using free hosting services, like GCast, you can now use your cell phone to create a podcast episode.

  2. Brainstorming. This is amazing. You can use a utility to have kids brainstorm and it will put their answers onto an online whiteboard that you can project. See my other post on using texting for teaching mechanics for more info. or check my sample here.

  3. Notetaking & organization. Not only can you use the number pad (which I find cumbersome), but most cell phones can record live audio. Plus, you can have your Google or Outlook calendar send you text reminders of events or you can call & create events using your phone.

  4. Photoblogging. Most cell phones now have cameras. Quality is getting better all the time . . .

  5. Photo sharing. Kids share photos with other kids by sending these directly, but you can send your phone pics to Flikr or Picasa for sharing via the web.

  6. Location blogging. Text your location to a specific cell # and it will put you on your own web map.

  7. Video blogging. Cell phones with cameras can often also do video. Text message the video on your phone to your blog.

  8. Text messages, alerts, & info. I talked about this idea in another post about texts, but you could also have students respond to a journal-type question via text message.

  9. CPS Polls/Surveys. We'll be using, but it's similar to technology you've probably heard or maybe you've seen it on TV. Who will be the next American Idol? Text your answer to . . .

  10. Phone conferencing. Kinda old school, but you can "meet" and have a conversation with a small group via the cell phone.

Bottom line: we could have a 1:1 initiative right now with current technology & equipment. How we get there in terms of philosophy is the million dollar question. If we can answer that question, we will save millions. Literally.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Creating "Templates" in GoogleDocs

Update:  This summer, template creation was enabled in CCSD GoogleApps.  When you're in GDocs, choose "Browse Gallery."  You'll be able to view templates that other folks in CCSD have published or submit your own.  If you only want your class to work with something you've created, follow the directions below (and be sure to share for "view only").

Using templates with students, particularly those who struggle, can be a great way to provide structure for a variety of activities. We've seen teachers create templates in MS Word for 3 column notes, PowerPoint presentations, brochures. etc. (The templates option in Inspiration also gets a lot of mileage around here.) However, getting a teacher-created template ready for lab use is a bit cumbersome. Not only do you have to copy that file (we use ARD) to all machines, but you also have to be pretty careful about where that template has to live.

Now that we have started using GoogleDocs at our school, we've found that templates are very easy to create and use with students and require little (if any) help from technology support folks.

GoogleDocs does have the option to create something from an existing template, but the selection may not quite match what a teacher is hoping to use. In addition, I have not yet found a way to submit a template to Google. This is where sharing comes in.

If you create something in GoogleDocs that you'd like your students to use, you can share that document with the students (if you've imported your students into a contact list ahead of time, you can share with the group in one fell swoop). In sharing options, choose as "Viewers" rather than as "Collaborators." This will ensure that your students won't edit or change your original "template."

When the students log in and see the document you've shared with them, have them use the "Save as new copy" command under the "File" menu. This will create a copy of your template that they can then edit and change. Plus, it will retain you as a collaborator, meaning that you can collaborate on the document with the students, if needed.

This is a great way to use a template that is accessible from anywhere, modifiable by the teacher, and quickly shared with other colleagues who might be doing a similar assignment.