October Newsletter

October 2010

This newsletter originally appeared at www.gecdsb.on.ca/students/tie/nl10_10

In this issue we will continue last month’s themes by further exploring the use of social networking tools on the web and making the most of our time online.

It is my hope that over time this newsletter will provide a platform for us to share and display some of the outstanding work our teachers and students are doing with technology. If you have work you would like featured in this newsletter, please feel free to send it by email with the title “newsletter”.

Links

As we continue to redevelop and redesign the student portal, we strive to provide the most current, engaging and effective links to resources we can. Please continue to suggest links you would like to see and resources you feel would benefit the system by emailing me directly (chris.knight@gecdsb.on.ca). You can also add the link into the Web Links folder in the Computers in Education on First Class. See the First Class section below for instructions.

A huge “Thank-You’ to Mrs. Muscedere’s Grade 9 library class at Walkerville for checking and reporting a page of links within the portal. If you notice a broken link, please let me or your CIESC know so that it can be fixed. There is also a broken links folder in First Class. See the First Class section below for details.

Using RSS Feeds and Google Reader

I had a daily internet routine. I am sure many of us do. I logged in first thing in the morning and checked the same sites in the same sequence every day. Over the years this routine got longer and longer as I relied on more and more ‘must-read’ sites. My ten-minute internet session before leaving for work was stretching longer and longer. I needed to change.

At this point I discovered RSS Feeds. An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) Feed is a web feed that issues updates whenever the content of a site is changed. Admittedly I am telling you nothing new – RSS Feeds have been around for a while and I have been using them personally for some time, however the tools for using them are becoming increasingly easier to use.

To view an RSS Feed, you need to subscribe to an RSS Reader. Over the years I have tried many RSS Readers but the one I currently use is by far the best and most easily accessible I have encountered. I have also learned it is not what you use but how you can use it which truly makes a difference.

The service I settled on as the best was Google Reader. By creating a Google Reader account, and adding the web address for my most commonly visited sites, I am able to visit one page and view a list of all new content on these sites. No more navigating site to site and wasting time on sites with old content, the Google Reader allowed me to streamline by browsing and saved me an immense amount of time.

After time using the Google Reader to manage my daily web routine, I discovered ‘iGoogle’. iGoogle is a customizable homepage, which allows you to see the things you want to see immediately after logging on. iGoogle allows you to place Google Reader feeds right in your homepage, saving even more time from you daily browsing.

How to Create Google Reader Account:

1.Go to http://www.google.com

2. Under the ‘more’ icon, select ‘Reader’.

3. Enter your Google account log-in, or create a new account (it is free).

4. Once you log-in, click the ‘add a subscription’ tab to begin entering the sites you want to follow.

To use Google Reader as part of the iGoogle customizable homepage, in the top right corner of the page at http://www.google.com, select iGoogle and follow the step-by-step guide to set up your own homepage. To give an idea of how it looks, here is my current homepage, which includes my Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs and sports news all in one place.

Using Twitter for Professional Development

Last month we looked at how Twitter can be used to support professional development and collaboration. This service is only as good as the people you follow, so here are a few more you may learn from:

@gcouros

@topedutweets

@sadone

Don’t forget to follow those within our board using Twitter, including @cowpernicus, @johnhowi, @eastwoodeagles, @brockbulldogs and @drdavidsuzukips.

The use of Twitter within our board is continuing to increase. One success story comes from the Guidance Department at J.L. Forster Secondary School, where they have taken to posting all updates, information and announcements on Twitter. Check out @forsterguidance within Twitter or http://www.twitter.com/forsterguidance.

paper.li

Looking for a way to consolidate all of the interesting features and articles posted by people you follow on Twitter? Looking for a way to share the things you are learning with a wider audience in a format that is easy to follow? Then paper.li is for you.

Paper.li organizes links shared on Twitter into an easy to read newspaper format. Newspapers can be created for any user, list or hashtag.

To give an example, click here to see my paper.li.

I have so far found the most benefit from this application when applied to a hashtag of which I have interest. For example, I often try to follow the conversations and links which go with the #edchat hashtag. When I follow it through the paper.li service it becomes much more concise and removes the less valuable information associated with that tag. Essentially I have a daily newspaper for education. How about a daily newspaper on technology in education? Simply visit the paper.li for #edtech.

The advantages of this service for teachers looking to collate and redistribute information are obvious. If you extend this to use with your students I would love to hear of your success to feature in this newsletter.

Apps for Education

Almost every day I am receiving information or requests for information on the use of handheld devices in the classroom. Many people within our system are beginning to explore the use of these devices within the classroom. There are exciting projects ahead!

I was inspired to explore what could be out there for free that would interest my own 2 1/2 year old daughter. She already knows how to find her pictures on my phone and scroll through them, which in itself is a message about the type of experiences we should be looking to provide this generation of students. The app she enjoyed most was called “Kid Genius”, available for free from the App Store. It is a simple suite of language and math based activities. Here is the main menu.

Within each menu item are several activities. Here are the items in the ABC section.

First, she tried tracing the letters of the alphabet. It must be said she preferred scribbling, but there is value to that, too!

This app contains a variety of simple games for students in the early grades. It also offers the type of tactile experience shown to benefit learning at this developmental stage.

Heidi Olivito of Marlborough Public School shared these outstanding guides resources that offer a multitude of apps that can be used in the classroom. Firstly, a pdf document iPod Apps for Special Education and also this page providing even more detail and recommendations. Thanks for sharing, Heidi.

Look for an App Recommendation folder in the Computers in Education first class conference soon.

ArtSmart

Within our board website there are usually many valuable resources to be found. One such resource is the ‘ArtSmart’ program. ArtSmart can be accessed from the main board website by clicking the staff tab and then selecting ‘teachers’. You may have seen ArtSmart featured in the Ontario College of Teachers ‘Professionally Speaking’ magazine

Rather than try to put this service into my own words, here is the descriptor from the site itself.

Energize your Art program with ArtSMart! We are an innovative, on-line, video-based tutorial site. This resource is perfect for generalist teachers who are looking to improve their instruction in Visual Art, either as a course on its own or across other curriculums. Each lesson is concise and easy to follow. Set up your Smart Board or laptops and watch the lessons with your students. You can take it a step further and view the lessons on your own and simply share the visual examples with your students. Take it right to the top and view lessons on your own, give it your own twist and make it suit your classroom needs. ArtSMart is based on the Ontario Art Curriculum. It is organized through the Six Elements of Design. Each lesson discusses the connections to any appropriate principles of design as well. Working your way through a lesson or two from each element will mean that you have covered all expectations. So, sit back, relax and let us do it for you!

ArtSmart is the creation of one of our own Elementary Instructional Coaches, Lisa Galvan. Please share your success stories of using this resource with Lisa and use this pdf to advertise it in your building for those who have yet to hear of this awesome resource.

Public Domain Resources

After the licensing of Naxos Music Library by the Ministry on September 1st of this year (see your CIESC for username and password), there were several debates over copyright infringement and access to materials.

Here is a list of links to resources that are available for us to use freely in our classrooms. The list is by no means exhaustive, but can certainly be used to access materials without concern.

Elementary Report Card Software

As anyone teaching in the elementary panel will no doubt be aware, we have not only a new progress report being introduced this year but also a new piece of software to create the reports.

Our new software is named MX-Web. MX-Web is a modified version of our previous eTeacher software, with the main change being it is a fully online service rather than a locally installed program.

MX-Web is very similar to our previous software in many ways. Anything you can do in eTeacher can also be done in MX-Web, plus some extra features to make the reporting process even more efficient.

On September 30th we opened a beta testing area for the use of all elementary teachers. A beta testing site is one which the developers use to give a chance to preview a system, but is not the final version. Media-x, developers of MX-Web, are responding to feedback and tweaking the system on a daily basis. This progress can be seen by testing in each of the beta areas – the red area is an early version of the software, the black a more up-to-date reflection of what we will work with. By testing in the beta site, it is hoped that any fears over the software change will be allayed as we learn how similar it is to our previous system.

Along with the opening of the beta area, a simple guide for how to use the basic functions of the software was included in the system memo announcement. Further guides will be released in the first week of October, along with the launch of some short videos and web-based supports. There has also been an AER conference created within First Class to relay updates on the reporting process and the implementation of the Growing Success document. In addition to this, two teachers from every elementary school will be invited to attend Growing Success training provided through October.

There have already been a few “Frequently Asked Questions”, so here are some answers you may be looking for.

Can my old comment library be imported into the new system?

Yes, all comment libraries exported from eTeacher prior to August 31st, 2010, can be imported into the new system. HOWEVER, previous comments were created under a different assessment and evaluation policy, and so may not be Growing Success compliant. I strongly recommend you read this document at your earliest convenience if you have not yet done so.

Will the system track the times that I am online working?

No, the system will not and can not track individual log-in times and time spent on report cards.

When will my secretary send my class file for me to import?

One of the benefits of the online system is that we no longer have to import and export files from the secretary. When the system goes ‘live’ you will be given a web link. You will log in with your employee ID and the username of ‘gecdsb’ and will have full access to your report file.

Will the servers be reliable enough to support our system?

We anticipate no server issues at all. This system has been used by many other boards with no complications for a number of years and he proven to be very reliable.

Here are a couple of screenshots and explanations from the most current version of the system.

Any subject area you have access to will be listed along the left-hand panel of the screen. Clicking on that subject will bring up a class list. You then need to click on a student name to begin applying comments. The screen you see will look like this:

The icons within this screen allow you to enter comments, navigate to other students or to other subject areas. This screen is one of the major upgrades to this version of the system. It is easier than ever to navigate to wherever you need to be in the system.

Dates for drop-in support sessions for MX-Web can be found below. Before registering and attending, please take the time to explore the system in the testing area. The drop-in sessions are intended for those having difficulties using the system and will be far more effective if people arrive knowing what their learning needs are.

As mentioned previously, more guides will be released during the first week of October to supplement the other methods of support for this piece of software.

First Class Computers Folder

Looking for ways to share or request resources to support technology use in the classroom? Look no further than our own First Class system.

Inside the ‘Public Conference’ folder you will see a ‘Computers in Education’ icon.

By clicking this icon you can access a collection of existing resources and areas to request and share any other resources. There is the potential for this area to form a great network for professional learning and a community for those looking for resources and support. I am in the process of reviewing and altering the folders available there and welcome input if there is something you would like to see. For now you will notice two new areas. One is for reporting of broken links within the Student Portal and the other is for suggesting new links for the portal or links to share with the system.

Upcoming Professional Learning Opportunities

Last month I published a survey through this newsletter to try and gauge the type of technology professional learning opportunities staff in our system are looking for. The results were very informative. 52% of respondents were interested in learning more about creating and maintaining classroom websites, 37% were interested in podcasting and 31% in opportunities for advanced SMARTboard users. Every one of the options provided had some support, so look for those opportunities throughout the year. After-school workshops for October will be limited to supporting the new elementary report card software, MX-Web. November will see the launch of a Professional Learning Community for advanced SMARTboard users and the start of our implementation of Turnitin/WriteCycle for secondary schools. All of these dates will be found on bookit in early October.

Dates for MX-Web Support are:

Thursday 7th October – Board Office 3:30pm-5:00pm
Friday 8th October – Board Office 3:30pm-5:00pm
Tuesday 12th October – Dowswell 3:00pm-5:00pm
Friday 15th October – Dowswell 3:00pm-5:00pm
Tuesday 19th October – Board Office 3:00pm-5:00pm
Wednesday 20th October – Dowswell 3:00pm-5:00pm

Other workshops you may be interested in are:

Teacher Librarian Refresher – October 7th, 4:15pm, Dowswell

VIP Training for Teachers New to Grade 6 – October 13th, 8:45am, Ciociaro

Premier Technologies – October 25th, 3:30pm, Dowswell

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Posted on March 7, 2011, in GECDSB Newsletter. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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