Month: February 2016

Google Hangouts, your classroom clothesline to the world

This article is the sixth in my weekly series for fundamental Google Training: Unit 6 

When was the last time you took down fresh clean laundry from a clothesline that had been dingy and stained when you started, to being warmed by the sun into snuggly bright clean and refreshed sense fulfilling fabric? Imagine if you had a clothesline out your classroom window that connected to other classrooms

Fresh white laundry hang on the clothesline with colorful pegs.and places where you could hang your students out on a zip line to exchange information and meet experts in the field you were studying when they seem dingy and disinterested. They could hang out on this line and chat for a while, face to face, then return with all kinds of nifty facts and ideas to use in class, refreshed and renewed, just like that laundry. That is the idea behind Google Hangouts.

Google Hangouts is more than just a way to chat with someone virtually, it is a secure way for you to set up a time and space for a group of students to experience a live chat with either an expert in a field or another group of students that can share information. Hangouts have the option of just text chatting, calling someone, or doing a video chat. Sounds nice, but how do you make it happen?

Get started by going to Google Hangouts. 

  1. Sign in with you Gmail account.
  2. You can choose an option, video call, phone call or message, and invite people.
  3. Or on the menu, the “Hangouts On Air.” is available.

The best way to understand how the system works is to play with it, explore the options and ask a few friends in your Gmail contacts to explore with you. There are a lot of options, so the more you get your friends to join in the more you will be able to enjoy creating connecting spaces online.

How to find experts for your students.

“Hangouts On Air.” is one of the fastest ways to find people in the Google community that are affiliated with professional groups that may interest your students. Since they are already a part of the Google community in Google Plus, inviting them is easy. You can search by area of a subject, then narrow down after clicking on the subject. Usually finding someone that has contact information, and sending them an email to ask if they would like to participate in a hangout.

Or you can create your own Hangout On Air, and wait for other interested people to invite your class group to chat with. You can find people live online as well when you scroll through the list below your own Hangout On Air and invite yourself to their live stream.

Just think, your students can start a hangout, feeling bogged down, soggy and unsure of the subject they might be studying, and with help from the other group on the line, come back fresh, light and renewed. There is nothing like taking down that freshly dried clean aired out laundry to tuck neatly away for future use. Just like there is nothing like having your students feel fresh and have a renewed affinity for something they learned by hanging out with an expert that gave them that perspective.

Cheers!

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

 

Google Calendar: Sync and Swim

This article is the fourth in my weekly series for fundamental Google Training: Unit 5

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Swimming through the waters of today’s busy multi-tasking lifestyle can not only be stressful but also mindboggling. Don’t you wish there was a way to ease that stress, and keep you sailing smoothly with staying on top of your tasks at your fingertips? Now you can with the use of your smartphone and syncing  with Google Calendar.

Using a calendar may seem like a no-brainer, but just using a calendar is not the same as utilizing it. What is the difference? Having a desk calendar, pocket calendar or on your computer can be handy, yet imagine if your calendar went with you everywhere, when you are away from your desk, home or work and be reminded of important events and remind other people as well. This is the essence of Google Calendar, and why the simple step of syncing it to your smartphone can make you that much more organized, aware and simplify things for you. You can utilize it for reminding you of your daily tasks without forgetting to check it before you go.

If you are not already using  Google Calendar, it is easy to set one up through your Gmail account by pulling up you apps. Here you will see the app for Google Calendar:download (1)

The easiest way to get started is to watch a Google Calendar tutorial. Getting it set up will be the most time you spend, and once you have it, voila, you will be able to add, delete, share and make changes with a click, and stay on top of tasks. You will even be able to invite people to events that you create. Now wouldn’t it be convenient to take that calendar with you everywhere you go?

Sync it in two simple steps for either an Android or iPhone:

  1. Go to the Google Play or Apple App Store. Search and download the Google Calendar App. (As seen above)
  2. Open the app, and sign in with your Gmail account. Now you have your calendar everywhere go.

Next, try setting a reminder for events. Your phone will buzz you for whatever time you set before that event, and keep you on time for all your next important meeting and appointments. Who ever thought that syncing would one day be the way to help you swim along in your life, easing the stress, and keeping you more organized than ever. Thanks to Google Calendar, even on the choppiest of days you will not forget the tasks at hand helping get you through whatever storm life presents you.

Cheers,

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

 

Dealing with Student Death as an Educator

As with any occupation, there is the good, the bad and the ugly. In teaching, the ugly undoubtedly has to be dealing with student death. If you have been or plan to be in the field for the long hall, then this is a subject you will have to at sometimes deal with.

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The first thing to know is that every time is is different, and depending on the situation a very different reaction by staff, students, and the community. A newer student that passes away over Fall Break that may not know many people can cause a much smaller ripple than one that is the star football player on his way to Westpoint that has five generations of his family in town, but as an educator, you need to have the same type of plan in place. Even if only a few or the entire town is grieving, you don’t want to be considered less compassionate be anyone.

There are some keys to making sure you handle it not only professionally, but with grace and not to further upset your charges. Here are the six must dos I have learned from experience:

 

  1. Get the information out as quickly and as accurately as possible. Whatever the protocol maybe, once you have been alerted by either the family or authorities, you need to get the information out to your staff as quickly and as accurately as possible, even if it is in the middle of the day, or night. In the world of social media, don’t wait and think it is insensitive to send out a notice. If you hear from the family that there has been a death, but they do not want you to release details, just state the basic information, and wait to honor the details when that happens. If you wait, rumors will swirl, and this can cause a whole new panic and sense of hysteria.

 

  1. Have professional support waiting in the wings ASAP. As soon as you hear the information and have to author that awful email, get a professional staff together that can support the be grieved. If you have school counselors, have a designated spot for students to go, like the library or a conference room to talk. If you do not have a school counselor, get one in the community you know or even a member of a church that deals with family death that can help. Students and staff will need a place to go as the teachers might be grieving as well, or still need to teach and should not be expected to counsel.

 

  1. Have a designated spot for expressing grief. Provide a writing wall, card signing, or ribbon tying. Depending on the age of the student, you need to have a place where classmates can reflect on their feelings without disrupting the daily processes as much as possible. A large piece of butcher paper on a table in the lobby with markers can be a community card signing or a fence out front with a basket of ribbons for each student to tie can be appropriate for small children and parents that want to show support. Something that can be included in the normal flow of traffic but shows support will allow the process to be smoother and healthy for the community.

 

  1. Have a form of a memorial at the school. If you do not believe it is your place to do so, it is. Your school will need to say goodbye to a member of the school family, and unless the biological family does not want you to, you need to have a service at a designated time before or after school. Ask the family for permission, and invite them to come as the guests of honor. A small flag raising in the am, or a balloon release after school depending on the family wishes are appropriate examples. Have some words prepared with input from teachers and a few close students. Remember, this is the school saying goodbye, not the family ceremony, ask for permission to have the ceremony, but then do the planning and the speaking.

 

  1. Gather the student(s’) school artifacts. One of the hardest things that the family will have to do is come pick up the child’s personal items. Within 24 hours, have the teacher(s) gather any items from the student including student work and personal effects. DO NOT place these items in a trash bag, and have the secretary hand it to the parents in the front office. As the school leader, have the items in boxes available in your office, and invite the family to come pick them up when they are comfortable. If the family informs you that they do not want the items, just let them know they are available if and when they are comfortable, don’t throw them away or donate them, even if the family, at first, asks you to. Give them time to grieve and wait it out. Someone in the family will want the items.

 

  1. If there is a public service, GO!. Kid funerals and memorials are no doubt the hardest thing to attend in life, but if you are the school administrator where that child attended school, you need to go. Even if this interferes with something already planned, you need to attend not only to show your support to the family but to your grieving staff and student body. Nothing is more shameful to the rest of your school community to not show up to the service. This is a guaranteed way to lose a ton of respect if you do not go, even if the family does not notice you, or see you at the service, people from the community will.

 

All in all, tragically losing a student is an unfortunate part of the job as a school administrator. If you do not think that you are cut out to deal with a child dying, and the responsibility that follows, then being a school administrator is not the occupation for you, and if you think you are, I sure hope yo never have to deal with it.

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

 

Planning a Museum field trip? There is an app for that.

Planning a Museum field trip? There is an app for that.

The mere mention of Valentine’s Day at school can make teachers’ blood boil, and not in the way of love, but in the way of anticipating the mental, emotional and physical mess it can cause in their class among students. And after the sugar-induced heart day of horror for the teacher is over, it usually marks a milestone for them in the school year when it comes to planning. It is the time of year you really start to think about your end of the year strategies, goals and of course, that class field trip you will be taking in the Spring or early Summer. Year after year either doing the same old thing or trying to come up with one that would be different and better, either way, it can be stressful to plan. Don’t you wish there was an app for that, but, wait there is!

Introducing museumgo. An app that helps you see all the museums in your city with hours of operation and a link to the museum website. Doing the same old same old can get boring and even outdated, so coming up with a new exciting place to take the kiddies can be a challenge if you do not know where to start. With museumgo, the app has a large selection of every museum you probably did not know existed or would think of.

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In the Phoenix, Arizona area alone the app lists 62 museums that you could peruse through to choose from. From the obvious Children’s Museum of Phoenix and the popular Arizona Science Center to some more unknown gems such as The Hall of Flame, discovering all about firefighting history and fire science all over the world, including the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes or The River of Time Museum that exhibits the influence and importance of the Lower Verde River in the development and sustainability in Arizona.

 

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The River of Time Museum Exhibit

 

After cleaning up the candy wrappers and discarded pun covered cutesie Valentine’s cards that took over your classroom for the afternoon, take a minute to make your field trip planning easy and accessible by checking out museumgo. Figuring out where to go is always the hardest part, and with museumgo that is a snap, now if only there was an app for eliminating any unforeseen Valentine’s Day student meltdown….hmmmmmm.

Cheers!

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist

 

 

Gmail, the Cadillac of email

This article is the fourth in my weekly series for fundamental Google Training: Unit 4.

TeacherNo matter if you consider yourself a tech genius or a serious Luddite, you at least know what email is, and have probably used it at one point. Most of us are required to have an email for work, and some people may still prefer it for personal use if they do not subscribe to social media to communicate with friends and family. It is the one thing that universally ties us together more than any other communication tool on the Internet.

What you might not know is there is one email provider that outperforms all others with the abilities it has to promote you and your company, as well as open other doors to collaboration and communication, Gmail. Gmail, powered by Google rises above all others because when you set up a Gmail account, you have automatically set up a place on the cloud to store, edit, communicate and collaborate your information with others.

How does this magically happen you ask? It is easy. The interface of Gmail links you directly to Google Applications, where you can do multiple tasks, as well as have access to Google Drive, the automatic personal drive on the cloud that allows you to store all your documents in a mobile, safe place. But I digress. It is Gmail we want to talk about.

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Gmail has everything all professional email providers have as well as other options that others don’t, and in true Google style, they continue to upgrade and add more to help you to be the best emailing emailer on the planet. To learn more about some of the great add-ons you can use with Gmail, check out this article: Tools to Use in Gmail. Want to get started? Visit the Google help center: Gmail Setup, or watch a tutorial: Google Tutorial.

As you begin to explore what Gmail has to offer, you will soon realize how much more you can do once you have set up the account. Not all email providers have these abilities, nor to they continue to grow with you as Google seems to do, with an almost intuitive nature that drives it. Why settle for something less than the best? Why not upgrade your most vital and essential Internet communication tool? Choose Gmail, and best of all it is free. Wouldn’t you drive a Cadillac if it was free? I know I would.

Cheers,

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed

Technology Integration Specialist

From Test Prep Panic… To Standardized Sanity

It is that time of year again…getting readyo-TESTED-facebook for that standardized test that may make or break teachers, students, and even schools. With so much at stake, and if you are a third-grade teacher in Arizona, you definitely know the stakes, how do you go into the test feeling confident that not only is everyone academically prepared, but mentally prepared as well?

Mental test prep can be a challenge that we all face without understanding what we can do to alleviate the stress not only for students but for the faculty as well. Standardized tests usually take place only once a year in the Spring, so preparation can be something to start early, the sooner or better. The prep is a school-wide matter, and from the top down there can be some strategies that can be shared and used by all to get students ready. Here are four tips for administrators, and teachers.

Administrators:

  1. Create a Test Prep Committee. Another committee might be the last thing you want to do to your staff. Finding the time to meet and asking them to add more to their plate may cause a revolt, however, this should be a priority. Maybe dissolve a committee that is no longer needed or revamp an old one for test prep.
  2. Create a checklist for tech skills and standards for teachers. This may seem silly, but something that can easily be overlooked because the general attitude can be if we cover the standards, students have learned the skills, or they are getting them in another class, which can be misleading. A checklist can help teachers stay aware of what they will focus on when prepping students.
  3. Have a test prep contest for the teachers. Make it fun for your faculty by having a trivia question at the beginning of a staff meeting with a small prize for the first correct answer, or names can go into a drawing for teachers that have completed a checklist for the week. Whatever keeps your staff thinking about the prep without the extra stress.
  4. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise… Have all the information for state test out and accessible to everyone that walks through the front door. Maybe have a state test bulletin board in the front office that advertises what the test is all about, with tips for parents and teachers.


Teachers:

  1. Have a sticker skill chart in class. A skill chart that students can place stickers on once they have mastered the required tech skill or standard can make the anxiety disappear, and even have them looking forward to applying them, knowing that they worked hard on this goal.
  2. Have a countdown visible to the test date in the class. This may seem like something that can build anxiety, but it can be a constant reminder for students to understand why they are learning certain skills, and possibly be associated with the day after which can be a reward day, that can actually ease anxiety.
  3. Talk about the test almost daily; be the state test cheerleader. Be honest and let your students know that this is high stakes, but you are going to do everything in your power to help them do their best. Cheer them on and support them, you got this, they got this.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice.. Have the students do the practice test as many times as possible and create practice tests yourself if you feel they need more. Every form of research out there shows practice takes away anxiety, stress and makes it easier to handle the task.

Prepping for a high stakes test is probably not your favorite activity, but until there comes a day when the state legislature decides to eliminate their fun-filled way to measure achievement of your students, it is better to be prepared, rather than freak out at the last minute. Avoid filling yourself and students with unneeded stress and anxiety, be prepared, not panicked.

Cheers!

Robin L. Stockmar M.Ed.

Technology Integration Specialist