Monday, November 10, 2014

Tutorial: Successfully Sharing a Google Doc from an iPad

In the School District of Waukesha, we LOVE Google Apps for Education!  We also LOVE iPads!  

However, sometimes the two key players who develop these amazing tools, Google and Apple, don't always meet our love and adoration with the grace and respect they should.  In fact, sometimes they make it downright difficult (or at least annoying) to use the products simultaneously to do the important work of teaching and learning.

Some folks have identified that the sharing of Google Docs from the iPad while using the Google Docs app has led to some disappointing results.  The doc cannot be widely shared publicly.  It can be shared with individuals, but the share settings cannot be changed to share more widely.  In a world where our teachers and students have two different domains, this can be problematic.

Mark Anderson, a Social Studies teacher from West High School, has been troubleshooting with his students and has provided a brief tutorial video that unveils a proven method for sharing Google Docs widely from an iPad.  Thanks, Mark, for your willingness to share and teach us.




Friday, November 7, 2014

Clean Up the YouTube Videos You Share Using SafeShare.TV

Sick of the clutter that surrounds your instructional YouTube videos?

Concerned about the appropriateness of the suggested videos that
will appear at the end of a YouTube video?

We may have found a tool that's just right for you!

YouTube is amazing, powerful, and truly our recommended "go to" for sharing and displaying video in our district.  It's hard to imagine anything that can make sharing, uploading, editing, viewing, and customizing video any easier.  Most of us love the ease of use of YouTube.  However, we sometimes have to take the good with the less desirable.  Ads and suggested videos that are just inappropriate for our purpose as educators can be a downer on an otherwise very valuable service.

Perhaps it is possible to get the best of both worlds.

A service called safeshare.tv allows you to paste the video's URL into the service.  From there it will generate a safeshare.tv link for that video.  It eliminates the clutter that can appear on the outside of the video (which is often annoying and sometimes inappropriate).  It also eliminates the suggested videos that pop up after viewing a video, which can also be distracting and undesirable.  Finally, users can also customize the title of the video (as it appears on the safeshare.tv link page), the background for the video, and can indicate what part of the video to play (custom start and end times for the video -- no need to show the whole 10 minutes when only 3 are needed for the instructional purpose).

While there is no embed code (this is a downfall compared to the embed code that is available from YouTube), it does generate a link that can be shared with students/parents, placed in Blackboard, or housed online for your desired audience to access.

Here is a look at a YouTube video that has been "cleaned up" using the SafeShare.TV tool.

Click to follow the link:
http://safeshare.tv/w/MDcsJPnmEE

*By  the way, the video is an introduction to iBooks Author, a powerful tool available to all SDW staff on a MacBook.  Check it out.  It is an amazing tool that will help engage students, improve the ability of students to comprehend what they read, and allow students to meaningfully annotate text in a tactile, organized, and exciting way!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blogger: Sometimes It Can Just Be That Easy!

Tonight I was fortunate to spend time with a team at Butler that is interested in communicating more regularly, easily, and openly with parents than they have previously.  They asked a great question that became a starter for a really good conversation -- "How do we even go about doing that?  We've heard about blogs -- is that the right tool for the job?"

To answer the question, blogs are an easy, yet powerful, way for teachers to maintain regular communication with students and parents.  They are flexible enough to serve a variety of roles, from an online journal to a fully functional web page/presence.  Most importantly, they are easy enough to anybody can learn to meaningfully use them in relatively short order.  Tonight I watched a team of teachers transform into teacher bloggers in about 30 minutes.  It is amazing to see what can happen to a teacher once they see just how useful and easy the tools are to use.

The tools that we most commonly recommend for blogging in the School District of Waukesha are:

Blogger


Owned by Google, Blogger integrates beautifully into our platform because the same email and password used for our district Gmail (and student Gmail accounts) will get you into Blogger.  No extra passwords or logins needed.  The platform defaults to open, meaning the world can view your posts, but it can also be locked down tightly and shared with only a few specific viewers if desired. It works incredibly well on the iPad, and it is something our students could learn to use in less than a class period as a way of exploring their thinking in writing.



Blackboard Blog Tool


Built into Blackboard, the Blog tool is a great way to integrate written responses and commenting directly with the online lessons and resources teachers develop.  The tool lives right within Blackboard. That means it can only be published to teachers and students enrolled in the Blackboard course, making it more of a walled, private blog.  While it doesn't have the same bells and whistles that Blogger does, it does offer teachers some relatively useful tracking tools that make reading student blogs and comments a snap.  Trade-offs between ease of use, privacy, and openness are key considerations when determining if Blackboard suits the needs of the teacher and students.


What is MOST exciting is just how easy both of these tools are to use.  My friends at Butler suggested several times tonight how surprised they were at how easy the blogging tool we were exploring (Blogger) was to use.  That should always be the goal.  As a Technology Department and as Technology Coordinators, we are always evaluating the ease of use and likelihood the tool will readily be adopted by students and staff.  We all have more important items on our daily checklist than spending a lot of time struggling with technology.

As always, if some tool or resource you are using isn't working as easily as it should, feel free to engage us in that conversation.  We are always willing to lend a hand, a suggestion, or to work to get the tool working as well as we can!