Keeping Our Eyes on The #EdTech Horizon

We’re quickly approaching that time. The end of summer draws closer and the excitement of another school year begins. Many teachers enjoyed some relaxation as certainly did our students. Many of those same teachers also invested a lot of time and energy to learning about new ideas and technologies; whether that be attending a conference, edcamp, adding new books to their professional libraries or taking a grad class. The opportunities are, and will continue to be, plentiful.horizon

From my own experience, as well as something that can be quickly deduced by chatting with any educator interested in edtech, keeping up with it all is a never-ending challenge. We always have new tools, new devices, this movement, and that movement. To try to keep up with it all can feel like quite a daunting, yet incredibly satisfying task all at the same time.

Just like Uncle Ben told his nephew Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility.”. We now have the power to keep ourselves at the forefront of educational technology. We can connect and learn on Twitter, through reading blogs, attending face to face events, taking classes, or by just doing a quick search on YouTube. Even if we don’t have every device available or are using every tool that’s available, it’s important for teachers, as well as school/district leaders, to keep our eyes on the horizon for what’s possible. The horizon always looks far away, but it should represent a place where we want to go professionally and be a place we want to take our students to in their learning.

Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better. Pat Riley

 

Predicting The Future

October 21, 2015.

Anyone who calls themselves a movie fan of the 80s knows what this date represents. In Back to The Future Part II, “Doc” Brown and Marty McFly took a little trip to the year 2015 to rescue Marty’s future children from life altering failure. Specifically, October 21, 2015. That is today,

https://www.flickr.com/people/mssarakelly/
https://www.flickr.com/people/mssarakelly/

which has been appropriately deemed as Back to The Future Day! I’m a huge BTTF fan as you may have already guessed. I have t-shirts, Legos, and even have a flux capacitor phone charger in my car (insert geek jokes here).

While we don’t have flying cars, hoverboards, or Nikes with power laces we do have many other pretty amazing abilities: video conferencing, wearable technology, and this little thing called the internet just to name a few .  It’s still amazing to me that we have the ability to take our students anywhere in the world, even if it is virtually. Learning is not limited to a classroom or even a school. It certainly is not limited to only happen during school hours either. We can connect with anyone in the world, and we can be a publisher and contributor of content for the whole world to see. These are all powerful learning abilities that were not possible 15-20 years ago.

While we don’t have our Delorean with built-in Flux Capacitor to learn what education will look like in another 5, 10, or 30 years from now, we do have some pretty incredible learning opportunities right now that can feel pretty futuristic. Are you (schools, districts, leaders, and teachers) doing everything you can to leverage these resources to bring the world to our students? Let’s make connecting and contributing to the world a priority to help create the future of education that our students deserve. 1.21 gigawatts not required.

 

 

 

 

Creating and Collaborating in The Cloud with Chromebooks

This is a guest post that is cross-posted on the K12 Blueprint Blog by @IntelK12EDU.

Chromebooks have taken the education world by storm over the last few years. They’re affordable, easily portable, and give our students access to the world. In a short time they’ve become, in my opinion, the biggest no-brainer in education. So, what does this mean for our students? What can students actually do on a Chromebook?

Bringing our students to the cloud

Our world is online now – we bank, shop, socialize, and work in the cloud. Chromebooks are made for this. They give us a secure, well performing portal to the world. If your school district is already using Google Apps for Education, the integration of Chromebooks is seamless. Isn’t this what we want for technology to become in school – practically invisible and as commonplace as pencil and paper? One of the best things about Chromebooks/Google Apps for Education I’ve said for a long time is that they do a great job at getting out of the way of student learning. We now have our Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Drive, and any other favorite web based right at our fingertips across all types of devices. We (teachers and students) no longer have to be bound by just one operating system or type of device. Schools must begin leveraging these tools to bring students into the world of working in the cloud, communicating, collaborating, and creating on the web.

We can’t afford not to give our students this type of access – at school and at home. Don’t leave it up to high school, college, or the workplace to give our students their first experience of working in the cloud. Students of all ages can access loads of grade-level appropriate content on a Chromebook. The Chrome Webstore has an entire section of educational apps or you can head over to Google Play for Education where teachers and parents can find educational apps for Chromebooks that have all already been vetted by teachers. Google Play for Education is a great spot for teachers to go too if they want to send an app to their entire class easily.

Yes, you can create on a Chromebook

I remember this debate well when Chromebooks were first making their entrance into K-12 education – students can’t create anything when you can’t even install software on a Chromebook. Or another – they become a paperweight if you’re not connected to the web. Neither of these claims are true. Software that once had to be installed via a CD-Rom (remember those?) is now accessible via the web and can be used via Chrome the same way it would if it were installed on a more traditional platform. Students can create and edit video projects, edit photos, build 3d models and print them, publish presentations, code, and create music all from their Chromebook.

Google has done a great job at making it easy to work on Google Drive files and Gmail even if you’re without an internet connection. While you’re connected to the web, you go into your Drive settings, check a box, and bang you’re done – you’re able to edit Docs, Sheets, and Slides files offline. Next time you’re connected everything gets back in sync with the cloud.

Management made easy

Whether a school has ten or ten thousand, Chromebooks can be managed easily from a web-based console. From an instructional standpoint one of the best things we did for our elementary students was push out a standard set of apps to students in each grade level via the management dashboard. It gave a “standard load” of educational apps and tools to each student in each grade. Students could still of course add any other apps they or their teacher wanted. The Google Apps dashboard also allows for security measures and other important settings to be in place across all devices (or just for particular groups of students and staff) without having to physically touch a single Chromebook.

Choices, choices, choices

More and more big name tech giants are producing their own line of Chromebooks. When the Chromebook initially came out they might not have been up to par on the technical side, however, they can now be found with specs that rival other competitors. Once Chromebooks came out with Intel processors and other powerful features, it significantly changed the game for personal computing because you can get a powerful device much more affordably. The New York Times even posted an article recently about how Chromebooks are gaining significantly in education over other platforms.

Great resources out there to help

I stand by what I said earlier, if you’re in a school or a district that already uses Google Apps for Education, then the Chromebook is your device. If you’re in a place where your school is trying to make a decision of one device over another my biggest advice is to take your time making this very important decision. When my district did this one of the most beneficial things we did was listen to our students; ask them what they wanted in a device. Make the time to do this. Reach out to other educators on social media because there are loads of fantastic people that have paved the road for you and they’re willing to share best practices. Or send an email to a neighboring district to set up a meeting or a Google Hangout to ask questions and engage in conversation. One of the best by-products of technology is its ability to connect us to other brilliant people. We’re truly better together.