Digital Citizenship Shouldn’t Stop at the Door

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of teachers, administrators, parents and students over the last 12 months. I’ve worked both as an ‘Itinerant Teacher’ (a type of consultant) and as a teacher during this time, seeing a side of education that I had never seen before. It was during my time as an Itinerant Teacher than I began to realise that Digital Citizenship needs to go further, and then over the last few months I have seen more and more evidence. Here are some highlights:

  • I sat in a meeting where a PR company representative said it was OK to take copyrighted images from Google, alter them and then publish them on Facebook as a Meme – just so you know… this isn’t okay, it’s stealing, plagiarizing…
  • I went to a workshop where someone turned up with so much adware and malware on their machine they couldn’t actually take part in the workshop. They had been using this machine like this for months– the scary part here is how much data could have been collected not just about the user but about the students that the user had been working with on that machine.
  • A number of users gave out their usernames and passwords after receiving Phishing emails or Social Engineering emails. The message that they got sent then got forwarded to everyone else in their contacts list after the person stealing their info logged into their account – this happens everyday all around the world, and thankfully Google picked up on it and locked the person’s accounts.
  • A colleague asked me to help with their class computer, it turned out it was full of online gaming downloads that their child had downloaded. It was easy to remove but affected some of the other programs on the machine. – shouldn’t we be keeping work and personal life separate?
  • Some Grade 11’s told me that one of their teachers is ‘friends’ with them on Snapchat -fundamentally I don’t have an issue with this, it’s their personal business, but you’re opening a whole load of doors (see below)
  • Someone posted an obvious scam post in a Facebook community, as it told them to share it with a set of communities to get free stuff – things are rarely free, and if they are usually the domain name isn’t something incomprehensible. 

This all got me thinking, we spend all this time talking about Digital Citizenship with our students, showing them how to cite sources, identify scams, understand how to find good information from bad information, but we never do this with our teachers. The students are growing up in the ‘information age’ but a lot of our teachers did not, they went to school when you had to look up information on a Microfiche (if you don’t know what one of these is you can find out here) or in a database before finding the book or journal that you required on a shelf. When hanging out meant that you got together in person, not that you opened up Chrome and started up a hangout. When Facebook didn’t exist and you kept in touch with people by sending them a postcard.

Teachers are generally older than the average workforce in Canada [“In fact, the average age of these teachers is considerably higher than in the work force as a whole” – Service Canada] and this means that we need to educate them, we have a responsibility to ensure that teachers understand that:

  • Keeping your Social Media profile private is important, and being friends with students is often not a good idea. The TES in the UK have some good pointers and point out the pitfalls of not securing your Social Media profile.
  • Handing out your phone number to students so they can text you is a massive opening for accusations. Using a service such as Remind can allow you to have the same functionality whilst protecting yourself.
  • Keeping your work life online and your personal life online separate are important. Your employer has the right to look at what you do online on a work computer, if you’re taking that computer home and your children are visiting dubious sites then again you’re exposing yourself to trouble. George Couros talks about this in depth and looks at personal vs private in this blog post.
  • Appropriate use of technology is vital if we’re to embrace technology.

At the same time as thinking about this, we also need to ensure that our teachers understand the things that we are teaching our students, such as:

  • Stealing copyrighted material from the internet and using it for our own work is not cool… especially if you then repost that for others to use. Use Google Image search to find images which are free for anyone to use and/or alter.
  • Using a filing system is far more efficient than saving everything as ‘Untitled Document’
  • Secure passwords are important (I use and love LastPass) and enabling Multi Factor Authentication is a must, not an option (I use a YubiKey NEO and couldn’t live without it), it keeps our data and accounts secure and safe.
  • Don’t EVER give anyone your password, don’t EVER type it into a site which you don’t recognise, and don’t EVER do it after clicking a link in an e-mail.
  • Your employer can and will look at what you’re doing online. This article about a new law in Europe emphasises how important protecting yourself from this is.

Essentially employers have a responsibility to educate employees the same way as teachers educate students in Digital Citizenship. Guidelines are great for teachers who have no experience, but they can stop innovation and create hazy lines as to what is and is not acceptable, sometimes without being obvious as to why something is the case. The Ontario College of Teachers has a set of such guidelines.

What do you think? Do employers have a responsibility to educate, or is it the responsibility of the teacher to get with the times and to read up on how to use technology?

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The Power of LaTeX in Math & Science

Often Math and Science teachers don’t see the value of technology in their classrooms. They find that it’s a hinderance, things take longer, students don’t pick up certain skills that they need (such as drawing a graph, or performing a dissection), but they also find that writing equations is a pain, and when I say a pain, I mean a real pain. They can be cumbersome, equation editors suck and let’s face it, if you’re using Google Apps for Education, Slides just don’t support them!

However, there are a few tools out there which will allow you to transform learning using technology, and some of them make you life easier in some cases! One of my favourite things is LaTeX, a markup language for Math (don’t stop reading!), which allows you to create equations from a line of code. One of the joys of this is that you don’t need to be able to remember the code, you can use a free tool such as this awesome one from MyScript, which allows you to handwrite your equation using a touchpad, mouse, graphics tablet, or touchscreen, and get the LaTeX out.

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Now all you need to do is copy the LaTeX and use it in your favourite tool. Here are some of mine:

  • g(Math) – allows you to create equations, graphs, statistical analysis, quizzes and much much more right in Google Docs, Sheets and Forms. This is a must have tool for anyone in the Google Apps for Education environment. Students can even respond to a ‘quiz’ in forms by inserting an equation using LaTeX or an equation editor, or even insert hand drawn images into their response!
  • Poll Everywhere – you can ‘poll’ your audience using text messaging or the web, and using LaTeX you can have equations as your options for people to respond to! Awesome! For those of you using Google Apps, you can even embed your poll into Google Slides (pretty cool eh?)

So apart from the obvious ability to use LaTeX for equations, you can actually copy the code between applications, so I can use the same LaTeX in Google Docs as I can in Poll Everywhere.

Sometimes LaTeX doesn’t play nicely with its friends, and you will need to play around with it. The biggest issue that I have run into is with fractions, the code to create a fraction is /dfrac {numerator} {denominator}, however, both Poll Everywhere and g(Math) prefer the /frac {numerator} {denominator} version. It’s not a huge difference, but the d makes or breaks it.

Play with it and let me know how you get on, most of all, use it, and use it well!

RemixEd

On Saturday 28th November we ran our first RemixEd event at the McGill University Education building in Montreal. Along with GEG Montreal, LEARN Quebec and Learning Bird, Educators from across the Greater Montreal Area (and further afar) came to take part in a brand new event which combines a traditional conference with an EdCamp.

Our conference rooms included opportunities to learn about blended learning with Learning Bird, a Maker Space run by LEARN Quebec, and a Tech Room, we had five un-conference rooms where people had the opportunity to add their own sessions to the schedule.

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We started the day with a welcome address in the auditorium, where we introduced the day, thanked our sponsors who included; Otter Box, Remind, Studyo, Learning Bird, LEARN Quebec, GEG Montreal, Double Pizza and more. This took place in the amazing auditorium which includes group whiteboards, student microphones, height adjustable desks, speaker note screens, document cameras, SMART Podium screens, lighting control and more, a true 21st century learning space.

IMG_20151128_081143.jpg Session 1 involved me talking about Google Apps and the advantages. Thie was an interesting session which had people who had no idea about GAFE to those who had specific security questions which led to discussion of things such as YubiKeys which protect from social engineering to the key features of Google Apps for Education and what makes it the ultimate tool in education at the moment.

Session 2 led to a discussion about workflow including Remind which allows messaging with students and parents for free, and also allows group chats and more. This session was interrupted by me accidentally calling campus security from the phone, which was rather embarrassing. I think that most people took quite a bit away from the session including their own sharing of their uses of Edmodo.

Lunch was sponsored by Learning Bird and LEARN Quebec. With Double Pizza Montreal helping reduce the cost of the pizzas! 50 to be exact!

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During the afternoon session I went to check out the Maker Space which I hope will be making an appearance at the upcoming Future Ready Summit in Montreal in April. There are some amazing things happening here including Makey Makey and textile technologies which blew my mind.

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We finished with a GEG discussion and a wrap up with prize giveaways including Chrome Casts, Google SWAG, Otter Boxes, Books, and Much Much More!

All in all this was an amazing day with lots of events and sessions run by amazing educators. My favourite tweet of the day was:

If you’re interested in hosting a RemixEd please get in touch and we’d be happy to talk to you about using our branding and how to get started.

You can follow us on Twitter @RemixEdMTL and find us on Facebook

Chromebooks in the Math Classroom

I’m lucky this year to have access to a cart of 30 chromebooks which I can book and bring to my classroom. A lot of our students have phones or iPads but not all of them, and this often makes planning an activity in class which relies on students being 1:1 tricky. I’ve been looking for ways to make Math not only more relevant for my students, but also integrate technology into my teaching. I ran into a few obstacles, but I set up the class to be easy to access for the students.

The Obstacles

My first obstacle has been (to my surprise) my students resistance to using tech to complete assignments and work. I’ve been asking them to use Google Forms to submit homework assignments and then using Flubaroo to check their answers. Surprisingly they really want to hand in the tangible sheet of paper, even when they are just simple single value answers, or multiple choice options. I even made their life easier by shortening the link to the form and sending it to students using Remind. They have also been using a Math site developed by one of our teachers called Math Help Services and they seem programmed to go to their one stop shop which is great in one aspect, but not when you want them to use a variety of sites and resources.

My second obstacle was that my school acquired Chromebooks quite a while ago and they haven’t been used due to a whole range of issues. Therefore students hadn’t been using their accounts, so they had forgotten their usernames, passwords and in some cases had no idea what they were doing! This was quickly fixed, but it shows how quickly Chrome progresses.

Setting up for Success

I wanted to ensure that students were able to take part in the class, so I made sure that they were able to access the pages that I wanted them to access. The first task after having logged in, was to access Google Classroom. Once they accessed Classroom, they discovered that they had been invited to my Class, and all they had to do was click Join.

I’d had the Share to Classroom extension pushed to all the students in the school by our Google Apps Administrator which then meant that using my class roster I could push sites out to my students. This meant that I didn’t have any issues with students mistyping addresses nor did they have to worry about finding a resource or typing in long URLs.

The activity

Our first stop was in Google Classroom where I had posted a question using the new question feature. Attached to the question was a link, which I then opened for them, taking them to a graph on Geogebra tube (a site which allows you to explore graphs and functions). They then answered the questions about the graph, (e.g. what is the slope, what is the y-intercept) using Classroom.

Once we’d done this we then moved over to Desmos, who have developed a range of activities for classes which the teacher can administer and monitor from a dashboard. The one that we tried out was polygraph which gives the students a guess who style set of questions about a graph. The key thing here however is that the questions are coming from another student in the class. Here’s an example from the desmos site:

The activity went well and the students whilst being a little silly with their questions at times, really built on their language, and in the main, managed to choose the correct graph.

Using these online activities really allows you to make math more meaningful for students, and allows them to explore the things that they are learning, quickly but in depth. Completing the same type of exercises on paper would have taken a long time, but the Chromebooks allowed us to do this within an hour.

Periodic Function

I’ve been working on functions with Grade 10 this week and I found this blog post by Sarah (Math Equals Love) hugely helpful. Along with her post I began to think about how I could take this and apply it to periodic functions which we cover in Grade 10, a topic that my students always struggle with.

For some reason they never manage to associate the fact that the pattern (or function) repeats with the fact that they will end up at the same point every cycle. They always seem shocked and surprised when this happens.

So I came up with this little booklet which you are free to use or adapt as you see fit. The original LucidPress file is here.

https://drive.google.com/a/lbpearson.ca/file/d/0B_FV9bBQGZrnWm5nTXZCaG1lYkU/preview

Math & Google Apps

I’ve spent some time thinking about the new school year, and how I can integrate Google Apps into my Math class. It’s not a simple task but there are some things that you can do to make life easier and allow you to make better use of the Apps.

1. Make use of Google Classroom

Classroom is great for powering assignments and allowing students to find information in an easy and quick matter. You can put a worksheet here and ask students to complete it, you can post notes from class, video tutorials and make them aware of all sorts of news items from class.

2. Use forms to power your teaching

I use forms to ask students 5-10 questions about a topic that we are learning about, and then use Flubaroo or SuperQuiz to carry out an assessment using these for the next class to establish if students have understood the questions and which ones need interaction.

3. Respond to a form using math and more

The GMath add on for Sheets, forms and Chrome, allows you to really get some powerful math flowing in your class. You really need to check it out if you haven’t yet seen it.

4. Use the new Google Classroom API

The new Google Classroom API allows you to use third party sites with Classroom. Some examples include:

      – Peardeck
      – IXL
      – Khan Academy

Once you have integrated it with the service you can sync class rosters, pass information back and forth and so on.

What are your ideas for using Google Apps & Math? Let me know

The value of teaching computing

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit the Google Montreal offices. We got a tour, ate a delicious lunch and then took part in a Chrome hackathon, where we looked at writing a Chrome app. Along with myself were 7 other educators, and some of these people had never written a line of JavaScript in their lives.

The fascinating discussion that came out of this experience of sitting around a table, hacking together code, with Google engineers helping, was that students don’t know how to problem solve, they don’t know how to choose their best work, and they aren’t critical thinkers. My suggestion was that here in Quebec we should be integrating Computing into the curriculum, here is why:

    1. Computing encompasses many disciplines –
      • Coding
      • Testing
      • Logic processes
      • Creative arts
      • Math
      • Logic
    2. Coding introduces the concepts of language to students, it highlights the need for correct punctuation, the need for writing discipline, and for creativity. It also requires that you comment your code, so that others can follow along. Thus, encouraging critical thinking and reflection on one’s work.
    3. No matter how much we try, getting students to apply the Math that they learn in high school is extremely difficult, but through coding and the teaching of computing we can get students to apply a number of concepts which they don’t use elsewhere. The use of arrays and greater than or less than can be applied simply and quickly.
    4. Computing encourages creative thinking. We are always pushing the boundaries of what is possible when we are creating applications, websites and more. Those who are creating blogs with their class are already implementing computing in their classes, and they are encouraging creative thinking, but imagine giving the students a problem, and then giving them the skills that they need to solve the problem, but they can create whatever implementation that they want to solve it.
    5. Computing requires that students continually develop their ideas, problem solve (to find out why their code doesn’t work) and use reference materials (similar to a dictionary).

So how can we encourage students to embrace computing and what do we need to do to introduce it? Here are my favourites and they are easy for people to pick up:

Kodu (http://www.kodugamelab.com/) –

Kodu is a free application from Microsoft Research and Microsoft Fuse. It allows users who have a PC or an XBox to create games and program them by using a simple click and action interface. Students get to see the actions that they can apply to their world and their characters, and they quickly learn the idea of coding and procedures.

Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) –

Scratch is a free program from MIT which allows you to create simple applications which tell stories, animations and simple games. Everything is done through dragging blocks around which is a quick, easy and intuitive introduction to code. As you move through the idea of variables is introduced and you can do some pretty amazing things.

AppInventor (http://appinventor.mit.edu/explore/) –

This is another free online application from MIT which helps you to create Android applications by using an interface which is very similar to the one that we find in Scratch. Once you are done developing you can move your application across to your phone, to see your app in action and actually use it.

Lego Mindstorms & Lego WeDo –

These are expensive options, but students can program a robot in either C# or using the block based interface. The possibilities are endless and they can create amazing things out of lego.

Do you see the value of computing in education? What do you think about using it to encourage students to critically reflect on their work and develop problem solving skills? Let me know!

 

 

Using an NFC transit ticket to unlock Android Devices

We have been thinking a lot recently about how to make our Android tablets more accessible to Elementary students who don’t have a strong strong grasp of language. Once set up as a user and the students have logged into their Google Apps account, we can use NFC tags to unlock a device which has an NFC reader. No passwords or username required.

In this example I’m going to use an AMT train ticket, but you could purchase NFC tags from Amazon or eBay.

The first step is to ensure that you’re running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) on your device. If you aren’t this won’t work.

Step 1 – Go to Settings

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Step 2 – Security – then Smart Lock

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Step 3 – Enter your pass code – now choose trusted devices

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Step 4 – Add trusted device (here you can see my YubiKey and car are already trusted devices)

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Step 5 – NFC

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Step 6 – tap the tag you want to set up

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Step 7 – Give your tag a name. Now you’re all done – to delete a tag you simply press the one you want to remove and confirm.

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Now all you have to do is swipe your device to unlock it and tap your NFC card against the device. It will unlock and you will be able to access the tablet.

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The great thing here is that for a lot of people you can use transit tickets which are just garbage and lying around to become repurposed tech. They can also be used with special needs students and you can even use ID cards with NFC to act as smart cards for staff.

Hopefully over time Chromebooks will also come with NFC and a similar functionality will exist.

We can now print students photos on stick labels and attach these to the tag that is registered under their name. These cards can now be put in a drawer, pencil case or kept on lanyards.

We have also been trailing YubiKey Neo’s which allow a students username and password to be stored on a USB two factor hardware token and also have NFC built in. These have the advantage of allowing students to use both tablets and computers with the same device. However at $50 a student they are an expensive solution.

Digital Citizenship in the Math(s) Classroom

A lot of Math teachers are not interested in Digital Citizenship; their subject is very paper based, they don’t see how Digital Citizenship could possibly fit into their subject area, or they simply don’t think that it is their job. I think that they are wrong.

Why? Well it’s fairly simple, given the right tools and few ideas you can actually lead your schools Digital Citizenship Curriculum from your Math(s) classroom.

Blogging

As we all know a lot of Math is all about thought processes. If the thought process doesn’t make sense, then often the work on the paper, and at the end of it all, the solution doesn’t make sense. Students are inherently bad at showing that thought process, because all we ask them to do is show their work (i.e. the mathematical steps) but not to show why they did this. But by blogging, we can get students to do a problem, and then write a blog post about what they had to do, how they solved the problem, and why. You can use whatever blog platform you want, but if you’re using Google Apps for Education, it makes sense to use Blogger.

Once you begin blogging, you can now open up conversations about appropriateness of content, and about freedom of speech.

Digital Portfolios

Students spend a lot of time in Math working on activities with manipulatives, completing work on paper, or completing exercises from workbooks. The problem with this is they have no evidence for the future, the number of times that my classes have completed a puzzle to just put all the bits away, with no record is shocking.

The solution is easy though, use a Digital Portfolio to get students to record what they did, they could take photos with a phone or tablet, and record their accomplishments. This gets them to reflect on their best work, and to showcase it for the future.

There are plenty of ways to do this, but a Google Site, or a blog are the simplest methods. Using a website is teaching your students important web design skills.

Online Communities

Using an online community in Math can be rewarding, it’s easy to set up your own, using tools like Google Groups, or Classroom (if you prefer you can use Edmodo, or Schoology). This is a great way to begin Math conversations, and to talk about appropriate use of discussion forums, and how to stay safe.

The inclusion of Digital Citizenship is an important one, in all subject areas. No matter your experience and knowledge you can help your students learn. If you don’t know where to start, try this website.

Using Google Forms to Blend Learning in the Classroom

I recently did a webinar for EdWeb (which if you missed you can watch here). It was voted #1 webinar of the week on EdWeb, which made me think, why was this topic so popular with people, and why were the takeaways so good? Learning Bird made a fantastic overview of the webinar which I think summarises the ideas well, but still what made this a topic which people enjoyed?

We to begin with its fairly simple, people are stuck teaching the same old thing, in the same old way. Oh yes, they have ‘integrated technology’ into their teaching, but this often isn’t effective, efficient or pedagogically sound. The idea that I introduced in the webinar was that we could use Google Forms, along with a playlist to actually create a workflow which could power further learning and assessment. We aren’t actually doing anything too radical here, but we are changing the way that we do things, and we are removing some of our control, making effective use of our time and putting more trust in our students.

So how do we do this?

  1. Create a playlist of videos for a topic (Learning Bird, YouTube, Vimeo, or whatever platform you want to use)*
  2. Create a Google Form with a few questions which assess the knowledge which has been shown in the videos
  3. Set up Flubaroo or SuperQuiz to assess the responses
  4. Send feedback to students

* – Unfortunately YouTube Playlists can’t be put into a form as a video, so you will have to link to it

Flubaroo

This is an add on that you add in the responses sheet, it will check the response submitted against one which you have submitted and told it, it’s the answers. You can only check one correct answer unless you use %or to separate multiple correct options. The limitation here is feedback, the same thing goes back to every student, they just get told what was right and what was wrong. Have a go and see what feedback you get here.

Super Quiz

This add on again is added in the responses sheet, but this time you can customise the response which gets sent out. You could suggest videos for students to watch if they get certain questions wrong. Check out what happens here.

Taking it further

I think that using apps script it is probably possible to take this even further. The day that Google open up an API for Classroom will be the day that a workflow like this will become invaluable, with the form hosted in Google Classroom, the student completes the task and then gets their feedback and their mark (if you want to mark it) directly in Classroom using an add-on.

You can also use sheet formulas to process the form responses, which allows you to customise your responses. The great thing with this idea is that its not restricted to one subject area. Whilst it is well suited to Math, it could equally work well with English, Science or Foreign Languages.