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Archive for the ‘Google Tools’ Category

I’ve been buried under wave of teacher observations, annual summative evaluations, writing an online AP Euro course and the annual Spring race through cub scouts, boy scouts and baseball.  But I was shocked out of my grindstone lethargy by a message send to the College Board’s AP European History teacher list serve:

I’ve never heard of CORNPEG either, but based on the fact that it is associated with AP Euro it’s probably something like SOAPS (Subject Occasion Audience Purpose Subject).  Just another acronym tool we use with students to help sharpen their essay writing skills.  Then again it could have been an obscure agricultural tool.

I was just as ignorant and just as curious as the teacher who posted this message.  The difference between us is that I knew that I could find the answer in less than a minute, she thought her only option was posting to the listserve.  I threw “CORNPEG History” into Google and found a syllabus from a teacher in Oklahoma that gave me the answer.  Thanks to Earl Dalke at Mustang High School, I now know what CORNPEG is.

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What’s the moral of the story?  Thousands of dollars of professional development and drive-by “look what I can do!” presentations don’t have half the effect of a simple habit of mind. Giving a teacher a SMART Board and a Skype Account doesn’t necessarily change anything.  You can have all the Twitters, Twibes, and Twines you want, but if you don’t have the simple understanding that time between asking any basic question and finding the answer is virtually zero, you missed the boat.

Funny thing is, we now know what CORNPEG is but the teacher who sent that message is still waiting for someone to answer it and then will have to wait for that answer to make it to the listserve and for the listrserve to send it back to her.

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An online class calendar is the best way for high school teachers to take advantage of their web presence and achieve transparency between the classroom and their students’ learning outside of the classroom. Students who can check homework assignments, project requirements and test due dates at home will learn more than those who cannot. Teachers writing assignments on the board, forcing students to use their paper planners are preparing their students for a world that no longer exists. If there are any work environments that still require that skill they will be out of business before these kids graduate. These students, especially hyper-scheduled millennials, need the ability to manage their schedule electronically.

On the teacher side, the maintenance of a calendar is yet another chrono-vampire, ready to suck time out of an already overtaxed schedule. Or is it?

Teachers use a variety of methods to keep track of what they are doing. Some plan their class schedules on napkins, some use desk calendars, and others use picture perfect, graduate school template lesson plans. To eliminate the time drain of an online class calendar, teachers need a tool to direct this planning to a calendar that be used for both planning and announcing. There are many calendars available to teachers, but only Google calendar presents the perfect solution to online class calendars.

Most of the companies that design calendars as part of teacher and school websites seem clueless to the basic workflow of a teacher. Teachers with five sections of two preps often have to duplicate events across five calendars. They don’t have the time to click between five different monthly calendars; they need to see all five class events in one month, toggling on and off each class. They need to copy events from one section to others with less than three clicks. They need to make the class calendar open to both students and parents. It would also help if the calendar could send e-mail reminders that take less than two clicks to activate.

Would it be too much to ask if the calendar generated a feed that could appear in the teacher’s reader, or better yet, their internet home page? It’s probably too much to ask that the calendar allow students to incorporate one teacher’s class schedule with another teacher’s schedule and their athletic team schedule. For every education calendar system available, the answers to these questions is “No”. For Google Calendar, the answer to all is “YES!”

Using a Google account, teachers can create a separate calendar for each of their class sections. They can post and copy events or change dates with ease. There is no other calendar that better fits the workflow of a high school teacher.

Google eclipses all other calendar systems with its ability to be embeded in any other web site. Google earns billions because it is simple to use. With just a click, copy and paste, teachers can throw some gobbly-gook code into their website and voila, their class calendar appears on their teacher page in the school’s website. They can even put it on other learning environments like Moodle. Once the calendar is embedded, the teacher never has to worry about it, all of the work they put on their own calendar, with automatically appear wherever it is embedded, they never have to see the code again.

Students, creating their own Google account, can “add” a teacher’s class calendar to their own. By putting the calendar on their customized iGoogle page, their class assignments are always right in from of them. Students athletes who know what they are doing can grab their team’s schedule from one of those high school sports scheduling sites and put their games and practices right alongside their assignments.

Experienced teachers can grab a csv file from the company that makes the student planner or the school’s web site and throw that into a Google calendar as well. Teachers and students can also add this calendar to their own, schoolwide events can appear alongside their classes and athletic teams.

On the skill side, the sweet spot it students gaining experience navigating different scheduling systems and applications. Of course the ones available to them as adults will be radically different that the ones they use now. But the more they learn, the easier it will be to learn more later.

The Sweet Spot for Class Calendars

The Sweet Spot for Class Calendars

On the pedagogy side, the sweet spot is detailed descriptions for every class period. Why should class objectives and goals be hidden in the teacher’s lesson plan binder when they should be read by the students?

On the education side, every dollar spent by school districts on sterile, inflexible and difficult to manage calendar systems peddled by edtech industry thieves could be donated to rebuilding inner-city schools.

Google calendar wins.

 

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The combination of a cart of laptops, a great idea and an AP European History teacher with a strong need to jump start his class does not necessarily result in 21st century learning. It is much more likely to demonstrate how easy it is to underestimate the long list of tricky little details that can torpedo a good idea. (more…)

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Head in a Blender

That’s what it feels like when you take a class of ninth graders to the lab and try something new.

859124_blender In this case, it was transforming a typical World History lesson on the French Revolution by adding a collaboration tool to see if it increases student participation and encourages deeper analysis of content.

A staple of history lessons, the Estates Generale simulation requires students to examine the three competing orders of the semi-feudal society of France at the advent the Revolution by assuming the role of either the clergy, the nobility or the peasants and bourgeoisie. With France brought to the brink of bankruptcy by an inadequate system of taxation, and people starving from rising prices and diminishing harvests, the archaic royal government of extreme wealth was facing inevitable change. Reenacting the first meeting of the assembly which had not met in 175 years, the students were to research the issues upon which their assigned role would focus, and bring to class a list of demands to negotiate first with the other members of their order to produce a single list of proposals to reform France and then with the other two orders in a whole class debate. (more…)

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Have you ever felt like your brain is on fire? Your hands are cold and your heart is beating fast. Why? You just got one of those hot ideas that you need to try right away. Things this good don’t wait. (more…)

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