UEN is located at the University of Utah

UEN is located at the University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Destress Your Holidays with Evernote

Evernote is one of my favorite apps for my iPhone and Mac Computer because it's very easy to use and allows me to keep track of just about everything.  From notes, to calendar events, images, web clips, and even images from my iPhone - anything can be backed up, edited, and shared with Evernote.

Life is crazy enough in the 21st century, but during the Holiday Season things can get really out of control. Try some of these tips for using Evernote to "de-stress" the Holiday Chaos!

1.  To get started using Evernote go to www.evernote.com and create a free account. All you need is an email and a password.

The free version of the Evernote is all you'll need at first.  I've been using Evernote for over 5 years now and still haven't maxed out the monthly space allotment of 4GB.

2. Once you have an Evernote account, download the Evernote app for your Mac, iOS, Android or Windows phone and log in.

3.  Use Evernote on your Mobile Device to access notes created on your computer or add new notes.  You can even set up your Evernote app to allow images taken on your device to be uploaded to your online workspace.

4.  Once you're comfortable using Evernote to make your own notebooks you can also search for new notebooks created by Evernote and Evernote users, then add them to your collection.

For the holidays, be sure to check out the "Evernote Holiday Notebook" available at http://goo.gl/6TM4Qq.  Click the Join Notebook button to add this notebook to your account.

And now, here are some ideas for managing the holiday stress with Evernote:

- keep your shopping list current in notes
- keep your shopping list secret by encrypting the text! (Click here to see how)
- use Evernote Web Clipper to grab screenshots from online stores and add annotations
- take pictures of receipts to help keep track of your spending
- forward online shopping receipts to Evernote for safe keeping and budgeting
- find new recipes for Holiday parties and events in Evernote Food https://evernote.com/food/

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No changes are permanent...

Today is the last day I get to work with the Canyons School District Ed Tech team in the "Launch Pad".  This is a place that over the last year and a half I've learned so much about instructional technology, made friends, laughed until I cried, and got a lot of really good work done with really good people.

It's hard to leave.  Life is hard.  Well, it's hard if you're doing it right.  The challenges we face appear unsurmountable sometimes, but when you're surrounded by good people and friends it seems much easier.

EdTechs, you all know moving to Utah has been a big change for my family and I.  We're still going through changes.  It's hard.  Coming to work with you has made it almost manageable.  There's no way I can ever thank each of you for all that you've done.

I will miss the meetings, emails, messages about Sage, projects that just keep getting bigger, classes, workshops, everything.  I will miss the Sunday runs in Emigration Canyon, trips to the climbing gym, random hikes in the mountains, skiing, all of it.

Although we won't work together at CSD after this week, I look forward to UEN events, C-Forum, UCET, any excuse to spend time with you in the future.  Thank you for everything.  I don't know how else to say it without triggering an avalanche of emotions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

iPad Voice Over Feature & Encouraging Student iPad Misuse

Willow Springs Elementary School has six sets of iPads for classrooms where students use the devices as part of a 1:1 environment.  This means each student in these rooms has an iPad dedicated to their individual use for the entire school year.  In order to build a sense of ownership and responsibility for the iPads we encourage students to personalize them to best support their learning needs.  This can include everything from changing the backgrounds, to arranging apps, to setting accessibility options like text size or guided access.

Before you start to think that this is a blog post about how to turn on some of these features be aware that it isn't.  Instead, this is a reflection on how my perspective on student use of technology changed on a dime in a single second.  It involves students turning on the "Voice Over" feature, which if you've ever used you know it's not easy to turn off!

Heres the scenario...
It's a Friday afternoon and I get an email from the teacher.  "There are two iPads that we can't use in the classroom because every time we tap the screen it just highlights what you tapped and starts talking.  Please Help!"

There's no way I can get to the school until Monday so over the weekend this issue keeps creeping back into my head. What could that be? Why did it just turn on? Is there a glitch in the iOS 8 update?

Monday morning arrives and I grab the two iPads, turn them on and immediately recognize the Voice Over feature has been turned on.  The frustration isn't that the device is talking about everything I click on but that you have to triple tap anything you want to use.  Immediately I triple click the Settings Icon, wait for Siri to talk about Settings, then triple click on General, more talking, triple click on Accessibility, on and on until I get to the Voice Over feature and try to turn it off only to find out you can't.  The toggle switch resets itself back to on again and again.  The only way to turn off this feature is to find the "Triple Click Home Button" feature and set it for the Voice Over control and turn it off that way.  What a pain!

Ten minutes later I've fixed them both but my blood pressure is now 150/110.  Marching off to the classroom with the repaired iPads I'm trying to figure out if I should read the kids the riot act for turning on this feature or ask them how it happened.  The minute I see their faces I know it's best to ask what happened before losing my cool.

"Mr. B, can I speak to the two students who belong to these iPads out in the hallway?" I ask as he smiles at me knowing I'm annoyed with something. "And pay no attention to any crying you might hear" I add as the two boys and I walk out the door.

They look at me with wide eyes.  "Did you fix it?" one of them asks as the other looks at him with shock that his counterpart would actually ask me that.

"Fix it?  Is it broken? Why don't you tell me what happened to it first?" is my reply with a teacher voice, but no yelling of course - although I want to.  After all, turning Voice Over off on an iPad is a total pain in the you know what!

"Well, we were just checking out all the things it could do in the Accessibility features and started trying things out. We turned on Voice Over and then we couldn't turn it off.  I was afraid we would get in trouble so I just told Mr. B that it stopped working right." said the young man who was the first to ask if it was fixed.

That's when the switch in my head went from frustrated to epiphany.

This kid was afraid he would get in trouble for doing what I honestly wish more teachers would do.  Try things out!  Don't be afraid to click!  Troubleshoot!

"You're awesome." I say.  He smiles.  His friend's shoulders drop with relief.

"Let me show you how to fix this next time so that when one of your classmates or teachers accidentally turns this on, you can be the one to fix it."  The three of us hover over the iPads and start meddling with the settings, talking about different features, adjusting text size, etc.  Within 10 minutes I have two experts returning to their classroom with their iPads.

Before leaving I take a second to tell Mr. B that these boys know how to fix what went wrong and they can be a great resource the next time he has any iPad issues.  All smiles.

Walking off to the next classroom issue to resolve I find myself thinking, I can't wait to see what they mess up next.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The New Google Drive is Here!

Google Drive got a facelift, and some of the changes may surprise you!

If you're used to looking for documents and files in the "Shared with Me" folder, or making new items using the red "Create" button, then you're in for a rude awakening because they're gone!

Although the "Create" button is no longer at the ready for you to make new documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and forms, there is a new and easier way to build these files.   Click the "My Drive" drop down button and you'll see all your shortcuts are still there, just updated with cleaner pictures.

And when you want to find something that was shared with you be aware that the new name for these items are "Incoming".


Getting used to a new interface can be difficult.  If it's impeding your work or just too uncomfortable you can switch back to the "Old Drive" at anytime.  To do this click on the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner and choose "Leave the new Drive".

Switching back to the new Drive is just as easy.  Click the settings wheel in the upper right hand corner of your screen in the old Google Drive and select "Experience the new Drive"

If you are currently using the Google Drive app on an iPad you may find that the new Drive has a very similar appearance and might fit your visual preferences better than the old Google Drive interface. Folders and documents are displayed now in rectangular boxes with quick previews and other info.  In fact, all of the changes made to the online version of Google Drive were made to help insure that users of the mobile apps find the experience to be seamless.

Downloading Google Drive for your iPad is also pretty easy, go to Google Drive Tools and pick the device you're using.  On iPads you'll also need to download the free Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets apps to edit any of those Google Drive made files.

Note to CSD Docs users! - Our school domain for Google Drive is set up with a security system that may not work too well with the Mac and Windows Desktop apps for Google Drive.  Please use the standard log in at http://csddocs.org when you want to use Google Drive on your Mac or PC.

For more helpful tips on using the new Google Drive check out the Google Drive Help Website.

Once you get there be sure to watch this short intro video about the new Google Drive Experience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Flip'In Utah 2014 Is Underway

Let's get this conference started... with an interesting little movie about how NOT to flip your classroom.

"Flipping" your instruction isn't just sharing YouTube movies, sending kids home with computer to learn on their own, or having them rely on reciprocal teaching for support.  You need a qualified instructor who can coach, assist, and guide.  Gone is the "sage on the stage", and perhaps even the "guide on the side".  We have now become more the "meddler in the middle" as teachers try to adjust instruction to align with the changing times and learning styles that have evolved along with the new technologies and means of communication.

Watch the video below to see just how bad things can go when you "Flip" without the proper prep.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Flip'in Utah 2014

Two days of flipping PD are just one week away!  Sign up at flipinutah.org and check out our schedule packed full of workshops, training sessions, and a two great keynote speakers.

All of our content will be available online as well at the Flip Utah YouTube Channel.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Olympus Hike

Go for a little hike one morning, and you end up in the paper.  So just to set the record straight - I didn't put up or tear down flag pole at the top of Mount Olympus.  I was simply an innocent bystander after the incident.  Really!

Photo from http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=30473797

For more on the story about how several missionaries cemented a flag pole into the boulders at the summit of Mount Olympus, and a caring hiker removed the pole, check out the full story at The Salt Lake Tribune website.

How is this related to educational technology?  Here you go... YouTube, Facebook, or even Twitter could have served the purpose of sharing the missionaries' dedication and accomplishment much better than a sack of concrete and a flagpole erected in the wrong place.

Mount Olympus is on U.S. Forest Service property.  It isn't a place for putting up permanent manmade structures. The broken off remains of the aluminum flag pole now stick up as a hazard to anyone walking along the boulder field that is the summit of Olympus.  One wrong move can now mean not only a fall, but also being impaled on jagged metal protruding from the rock.

At the same time, it's a very difficult hike that requires stamina, endurance, and some basic mountaineering skills.  Climbing Olympus is something to celebrate.  So how could this group of young people celebrated their accomplishment in a less intrusive and more appropriate way?  Use social media.

Climb the mountain.  Experience the team work and camaraderie.  And when you've reached the summit record it for all posterity's sake with a picture - you can even take a flag with you, just don't cement it into the rocks.  Hold the flag, and post it online where it will be permanent and public, and people around the world can see it without having to hike up 3,000+ feet in a few short, steep miles of rocky trail.

That's what I did.

Click here to read about how this story was resolved.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Preserving Empty Spaces

It's the end of the school year.

You've made it through another marathon of changing curriculum, new tools and programs, unpredictable challenges, and an exhausting job. But unlike most marathon runners who expend their last drops of energy to get across the finish line to celebrate their accomplishment, you're being pressured to make decisions and plans for your next race.

Where will you teach next year? What's your schedule going to be like? Which students will you have?

This is a very difficult time for many educators. Our routines are coming to an end, and the promise of next year's assignments feel unclear. The shift from predictability to uncertainty is shocking. How can we prepare for the next year while still reflecting on this one? Stress begins to seep in as the finish line approaches and instead of elation we feel deflated.  Not a good way to start a summer vacation or break.

Typically, when faced with these decisions and uncertain plans we take out our iPads, computers, phones, and other devices to start filling in the blank white squares that make up our schedule. We count the few weeks off we've been looking forward to, start putting in important dates like the first day of school, PD sessions, team meetings, and before you know it - that day is here. We start our next marathon before we've finished the last one driving ourselves into a deeper state of exhaustion and disillusionment.  Where did the time go?

Technology, although a great tool for preparation and planning, might actually be a catalyst in this reaction.  Some psychologist actually see technology as one source in our perception of time speeding up (see "How Technology Speeds Up Time" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/06/technology-time-perception_n_4378010.html).

All hope is not lost - you can use your devices and computers to plan without rushing the time away. Using a little proactive planning and positive thinking you can take advantage of technology to help you slow down the "race", set time aside for yourself in the future, and learn how to stay calm in the present.

STEP 1: Think carefully about those little blank boxes on your Microsoft Outlook Calendar.  They may look like 30 minute increments and you may think you know how much you can teach in 30 minutes, but how much time will you need to rest in between?  What about travel or planning? When will you realistically start and end your day? Did you remember to block time for lunch? And what about all those emails, drop ins, and other requests from students and fellow staff members that you didn't plan for?

STEP 2: Use your calendar to make to-do lists.  Set up a recurring event every Friday for the last 30 minutes of your work day where you can collect a list of things you need to do so you're prepared for Monday.

As a teacher you know there's nothing worse than the SNBs (Sunday Night Blues).  You've had a great weekend and want to relax with friends and family, but instead you're looking over your plans for next week and thinking of all the things you need to do first thing Monday morning.  Fail!  Get it all done on Friday before you leave school.  Enjoy your weekend without worrying about work, and then return on Monday ready to go.  Use that to-do list to work efficiently and get it all done.

Step 3: Relax! And use your phone to do it.

Check out the app "buddhify2" for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.  Select your feelings and situation from a color wheel spectrum of emotions to hear a meditative guide walk you through how simple steps to relax, motivate, or even help you get to sleep.

If stress takes up a lot of your time, check out these other 10 Apps to help you relax - http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/10/02/10-apps-to-relax-your-body-and-mind/

Be mindful with your time. Preserve the empty spaces. Allow yourself the time to reflect, rejuvenate, and refresh. Even if you fill every second of every day with valuable teaching time, you're no good to your students burned out in the first few days of school.

And most importantly, enjoy the end of the school year.

Monday, April 28, 2014

To Chat or Not to Chat? That is the Google Drive Question.

Google Drive and Google Apps provide a plethora of collaborative tools for teachers to use with students, but one common questions comes up as soon as students become proficient with these tools: can we turn off the chat feature?

The answer is "Yes", but before we do that, let's think about a few things.

First of all, students have been passing notes in class since the beginning of time, but now we have enabled an online tool that allows them to virtually pass notes all the time, to students on the other side of the classroom, perhaps on the other side of the school.  In fact, the Google Docs chat feature allows people on the other side of the world to "pass notes" online.

The issue really isn't whether or not this tool is appropriate for an educational environment, but whether or not we are actively teaching our students how to use it appropriately.  If we turn off the chat feature, we are turning off this opportunity.  We are turning off the opportunity for our students to learn proper digital citizenship and etiquette - behaviors they MUST know to enter today's workforce.
(Image from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PassingNotesInClass)

My suggestion is rather than "shut it down", let's turn it around!

Here is one simple suggestion for teaching our students how to use the Google Docs chat feature appropriately to support writing, project based learning, and online collaboration.

Google Chat Writing Warmup
1.  Put students into a small group of 3-5 and allow them to chose one student as a leader.
2.  Have the "leader" create a Google document and share it with the rest of the members.
3.  Provide each group with a specific question to research and discuss. Example: "High sugar content sodas are bad for your health and should be outlawed in schools."
4.  Show students how to share their ideas using the chat window in the shared document.
5.  Share guidelines with students for staying on task, using appropriate language, and respecting teammates' ideas and opinions.

After this activity is complete have the group members grade each other on the guidelines. Share examples of students using chat appropriately with the class and invite them to use the chat feature in the future when doing collaborative projects or research.

You can also set a "No Chat" expectation for students when you would prefer that they work independently.  Perhaps a "No Chat" sign in the classroom would be appropriate to display when necessary (Image from www.colourbox.com).

It's also a good idea to remind students that their chats are archived in Google Drive and that any inappropriate use of the tool will result in loss of privileges.

For some great ideas on assigning specific projects that use the Chat feature, check out this article at EdTechTeacher.org.  You can also find some more ideas for using Google Drive (CSD Docs) in the classroom from the presentation 32 Ways to Use Google Apps in Classrooms and Schools  by Julia Stiglitz of the Google Apps for Educators Team.

For more information on using the Google Chat feature in Google Drive, check out the Google Drive Help Website.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Twisted Wave for Audio Recording on Chromebooks

Here's a great discovery that you can use with your students to record audio tracks on Chromebooks!  Check out www.twistedwave.com.

If you have ever used “Audacity”, the free open source software for recording and editing sounds, you will find this program very similar and just as easy to use.  Not only can you easily record an audio track of up to 30 seconds, but with TwistedWave you can also save the audio track directly to a Google Docs Account.  This is a fantastic student tool for fluency practice.

Getting started is easy.  Go to www.twistedwave.com and click the “Online” icon on the right side of the page.  Twisted Wave works great on Chrombooks, but it can also be used in Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

When you are ready to begin a recording, click the "New Document" icon under the introductory paragraph.

Clicking "New Document" will bring up a new window and then ask for your permission to access the microphone on your computer.  Click the "Allow" and the "Remember" check boxes to avoid seeing this request in the future.  You may also see a second "Allow" button at the top of the screen in a grey menu bar if you are using the Chrome Browser.  Internet Explorer will sometimes request permission with an option at the bottom of the browser window.

The audio recording screen will now appear active on your screen.  The rewind, pause, forward, and record buttons are now available for you to begin recording.

You will find with a little practice that students can also quickly delete and re-record their audio tracks using the "Control+A" keyboard shortcuts and Delete keys much faster than closing and reopening this audio window.

When you have an audio track that you are ready to save, simply click "File" and make a selection as to how you'd like to save your file.  Note that you can even send the audio file straight to Google Drive!

Without an account students can only save an audio track up to 30 seconds long.  If you need to create longer clips you can create a free TwistedWave account with your @csdddocs.org student email (The student Gmail feature is only available for students in grades 6 and up in the Canyons School District).

For more tips and tricks on using TwistedWave or installing the TwistedWave bookmarklet in your Chrome bookmarks bar, check out https://twistedwave.com/online/

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Two Many Emails? Not a problem with CSD Docs!

Wouldn't you think a teacher would know the correct form of the word "too" to use in a blog title?  In this case, "two" IS the right tense, especially since having two separate email address to check can make a person pretty tense!

If you're a teacher in the Canyons District you have probably been using your firstname.lastname@canyonsdistrict.org account to manage emails and calendar events in either Microsoft Outlook or the online version, OWA.  Now that the new CSD Docs accounts have been created for all Canyons District teachers and students, you officially have TWO email addresses.

Let's make life EASIER with this new service, and set up your CSD Docs email to simply forward to your CanyonsDistrict.org account so you can manage all of your emails in one place.  And since permissions have been changed with the CSD Docs accounts to allow canyonsdistrict.org emails to be received, you can also respond to other teacher or student emails from the CSD Docs service.

To get started, log in to your CSD Docs account at http://csddocs.org

1. Once you are logged in, go to your CSD Docs email account by opening a new tab for http://gmail.com
2.  Choose the setting icon from the right side of your Gmail Screen  

3.  From the dropdown menu select "Settings"

4.  From your new settings screen you will select the "Forwarding" tab

5. In this section you will select the "Forward a copy of incoming mail to..." option and enter your firstname.lastname@canyonsdistrict.org email address.  In addition to having your email forwarded, you may also decide whether you want the forwarded email to be marked read in your CSDdocs.org account, or even have it deleted.  This is a personal choice that you can make based on your email needs.

6.  Once you're set here, click the "Save Changes" button.  Try sending your csddocs.org account an email just to be sure, but now all of your email here will be forwarded to your canyonsdistrict.org email account.

Now that you're back to having only ONE work account to check, you won't spend TWO much time keeping up with email!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Keep Work Flowing with Workflowy

Teachers are like jugglers, or plate spinners, or maybe plate spinners who have to juggle at the same time. It's a difficult job that requires extreme multi-tasking and constant decision making. How can you keep track of all that you have to do?

Try www.workflowy.com

At first it looks like a text document with a bulleted list, but it's SO much more. This interactive, free, and easy to use web app allows you to create a simple "To Do List" to organize your complicated lives. Each bulleted item can become it's own item for focus, reflection, or sharing. With so much to do in life, why not ask for help? Just share a specific bulleted item with a co-worker or colleague by email.

Setup is easy too. Go to the site, enter your email address and create a new password.  Don't stress about making multiple accounts to desegregate your personal life from your professional life.  Once you get started you can make separate lists for each and control which items are shared with who.  Share your grocery list with a spouse or room mate, and then share the classroom needs list with your grade level teammate.  Everything can be organized in one account, one list, at one site.

When you're ready to dive in, check out this short video to see the basics to using Workflowy.

Finally, if you find yourself craving Workflowy on the go, download the WorkFlowy App from the iTunes store.