Tech-ED

Enhancing Education with a Touch of Technology

+1 Google Plus in Education

google+Today there is a buzz in the air with education and social media. I don’t blame educational systems for looking into the fastest growing ways that people are connecting and consuming data. However, with the social aspect there are more factors at play such as a lifespan (how big can it get without being too big), users interest, and the intrinsic “cool” factor. After all it would just be media with out the social aspect.  If you are like me, you are wondering how can we predict how people will move, and honestly we really can’t 100% predict that movement, but we can be prepared.

One of the options now is Google+.  I played around and found I can consume, produce, and publish information all from one place. This may sound familiar with Facebook, but I don’t have to sort through near as much useless information in the process. I can messaging, hanging out, and still being up-to-date on current news in all from the same place, and I am learning from all of the information.  Yesterday I was able to connect with people, see their face, share screens and learn from them as much as we were able to, and had an incredibly easy time doing all of the above. It all hit me…Why aren’ we using this to teach students in the classroom?  Well start on February 22, you and your students, friends, kids, whoever can actually see a live feed from space from NASA and 10 people will be able to interact with astronauts. AWESOME! I just became a kid again and I can see into space!

All of this sounds great, but what about social media, and it impacting education. Well, as an educator, it seems like Google+ has so many ways for you to connect with other classrooms, other cultures, astronauts, and anyone else who has signed up. It seems to replace Skype for video conferencing, for classroom to classroom connections, and classroom to guest speakers.  Imagine have 9 classes interact with a speaker all at once for free!

Here are 10 ways to leverage Google+ in EDU:

1. Communities, can be classes and you can have a live discussion over topics and ideas

2. You can create a small virtual classroom for free, record the lecture and play it back later from YouTube

3. Video conference with people all over the world (mystery hangout, share google documents live, document a project as a class)

4. Have your students teach other students. Divide a class in 1/2 and have 10 students teach part of your lesson. Record, publish repeat. You will have students teaching student before next year!

5. Record a play on a hangout if you are not all in the same physical location

6. Use it for teacher to teacher professional development. Hold 10 meeting throughout the year and have an ongoing discussion or 10 topics to talk about.

7. Hold mini demos/conferences of new ideas for a board of directors and record it for others to use.

8. Create your own Khan academy to fit your classes needs.

9. Use it for cultural, geographical, trending topics, or share your classroom with another class anywhere in the world!

10. Have students learn more than what your schedule might allow asynchronously, and create an individualized learning experience.

Share information! Educate our youth, and don’t look back. They are our future!

Day 2: Zombies, RUN!

So after the shortcomings of Day 1 with Zombies, Run!, I set up my online profile, and made sure that the GPS signal was good. I stretch, and as I start the morning of to recoup from the days previous run, it begins to mist, and the cool air sinks in as if the weather knew I was about to immerse myself into another round of the epic story. This time when I start-up the App I continue from the day before.

I am in a hospital, and I just had gathered some incredibly important documents, or so I think…Shortly after, I hear groaning and my “eyes in the sky” come in over the radio and let me know that there are zombies after me. I immediately begin to pick up my pace to out run the quick and agile zombies catching up to me. My radar is beeping lie crazy signaling me that they are getting closer and closer, and as they are 1 meter out I hear groaning, knives, and other zombie noises I don’t dare explain! At this point in real life I have left my running partner in the dust picking up my pace and never looking back.  If you know me, well I don’t like to lose at video games, or physical competitions so this app really began to push me. Earlier I turned on the split marker and I all of a sudden hear 1 mile, time 6:35. I looked to my marker and yes a 6:35 mile. How, wait, what, thanks Zombies, Run! So, after that shock wore off I hear more zombies and I am back in the game!

I keep running and they aren’t gaining as quickly now, and I would hope not for fear of not finishing the run. Soon the mission is complete and I can put Chapter 1 of the story down. I keep running at the same pace and I hear great job mission complete. Well, it would have been nice to immediately start Mission 2; however, the app took me into their version of the towns radio. It was actually like listening to a radio station in the village, what a novel idea! Personally, I don’t like to continually hear music because songs tend to blend together and this weird thing happens where songs blend together and time slows down. It was great after ever song or two I would be updated with life and meet new characters in the story.  I also was running around the camp to look for items and I picked up quite a few things that might be helpful later on in my journey.

Over all the app went from questionable to amazing in day 2. I would now begin to recommend the app to people, but make sure to do everything on the website first! I ended up running the loop in one of my fastest times and it was due to the timing of the zombies which seemed to coincide with the harder spots in my run. What a turn around! Now for dreaded day 3…..

Wunderful, Wunderlist

One of the best Apps I have seen for FREE for group organization is Wunderlist.  What is Wunderlist? Well, it is a simple to-do list (version 1.0) that you can share with anyone you would like, and set due dates and add notes.  Ever since the upgrade to 2.0 you can have checklists for your checklists coupled with a notes section to meet most of our organizational needs.

Why is this app so great? First, it works on almost every major platform available from mobile devices, applications, or web apps.  Furthermore, if you are managing a number of projects, or people with projects you can see and/or create a timeline with your team. Lastly, I personally love the fact that if someone is out sick before a deadline you can see how far along they have reached for their specific goals. The only bad part is if the lists have not saved/synced, which happens periodically on the apps, you will not have current information.

Personally the app has made me much more organized and I am working with my team to keep us all organized. There is the occasion that there needs to be a third layer nested for the to-do list, or a way to organize your lists without creating a lis for every piece of a larger list.  However, it works with notes, just not something you can check off and have disappear. Maybe we will see an upgrade with version 3 that every sub list item will have its own note section?

Regardless of 2 minute shortcomings of the service it works incredibly well.  I use it to plan out my blogs and keep the different topics organized for each day I write.  It also sends me reminders when things need to be done, just make sure to set them before the time it is due! Do you use any type of organizational apps, and are they free?

Day 1: Zombies, RUN!

I stretch, take a few deep breaths on a cool misty morning, wondering how this run will go today.  I feel heavy as if the world is on my shoulders, and suddenly it is. I get a radio transmission, that I can’t respond to because the mic is broken.  Great, what a way to start off a Monday. I hear that a city is dependent on my ability to out run, out smart, and out last a horde of ZOMBIES!

As soon as you start-up this running App it grabs you and doesn’t let you go, like a starving horde of zombies. The story starts off with some gripping radio transmissions as you run, soon enough things start to happen, bad things.  The only way to be sure of your characters safety is to run. As I used the App I was starting to get pulled into the story line very quickly. I was running and hitting markers on my route that I might have dreaded prior-to listening to the story of how I can help save a village from zombies.

The app is fantastic so far. Day 1 complete, and the run went well and I was able to forget some aches and pains as I ran. It actually made me want to keep running since my loop was shorter than the 30 minute option I had to choose from on the running options. Three miles later, I could have easily kept running to listen to see what developed. I am actually incredibly excited to see what lies next for me as I gather important items in the story for the town during my run.

If you are about to download the App wait! Make sure to register online first. Also, if you are an avid runner and want to track more precisely everything you are doing this might not be the app for you.  I plan on running tomorrow with my Nike App in the background to track my miles more accurately while I am running. I ran 3 but only tracked .22 km. I am glad the missions are not distance based!

We will see how tomorrow fairs for the 5 day test!

Children Learning Ethical Hacking

hacking
Today’s children are leveraging open courseware such as CodeSchool.comCodeAcademy.com and CoderDojo.com to learn how to hack their way into online games according to Mashable’s post: http://mashable.com/2013/02/09/kids-coding/.  This is a story that can quickly divide people into two camps, those who say the sites should make sure their security is stronger, and those that say students and children should learn how to use their powers wisely.  Well what if they are?

If you are on the side of the children who have spent time to learn to work around a system and say that security should be brought up to higher standards, let me ask you a question: What if it was your paid site, or restricted games? If you are trying to provide a service to a certain age group and children who shouldn’t see that type of content or are not allowed on your site, what would you do? This brings up the question many have now about Facebook, and how children under the age of 13 are signing up by the millions according to this Huffington Post Article. We all know that curiosity soars in children especially pre-teens, so why not strengthen security, and prevent the sites from being hacked. After all you are storing personal information on these sites, and how safe would I feel if my son or daughter could bypass your security? It seems as though if your site full of children’s personal information, even if authorized by an adult, is vulnerable to children of the same age there needs to be something done about the problem.

If the shoe is on the other foot and you say children should be using their powers of coding to break into these sites to expose their weaknesses, should that be done on a live server? Should this be done to possibly expose others information, or allow them to see behind the curtain of the software they should not have otherwise had access to? With great power and skills, comes great responsibility. Most of the code uses created malware to allow these children to steal currency, login to social media sites, and do other damage to people in the virtual world.  However, more and more the virtual world crosses into the physical world, with ramifications similar to stealing lunch money, ruining friendships, and other larger problems (such as breaking into websites?).

It seems as though either way we are in the midst a moral dilemma that we might not have had to think about before as our world ever changes. I would love to hear some feed back on your thoughts and what you would do if you child was the one hacking away…Also, as educators, families mentors does the landscape of our youth really change what we are teaching, or do we just need to reference different outlets?

Do Exercise Apps Help You?

fitnessAs we all know, mobile devices are getting close to out numbering people in the world.  This lends itself to the obvious rise of mobile apps in the marketplace, and the rise has had a secondary effect on many businesses, but specifically for this article fitness. THere are some apps I have used to keep track of my workouts from weightlifting, stretching, running and even diet.  With these apps all within a seconds grasp, why do we need a gym membership or personal trainer any more?

You might think that I don’t have a gym membership, but I do.  I am a true believer in still having a gym membership even though there might be an app for that.  Why you may ask? Well there are certain things that I do that require a gym, for instance a pool, spinning bikes, and workout equipment I don’t have to fix. Even from time to time I will pay a personal trainer to help me with certain goals I would like to accomplish. The human and social factor is something that is not prevalent in the apps that are being built today, at least not in the way people want them.

Some of my friends have apps that have a social aspect and they love them, but that app doesn’t have everything they need.  For instance, the Nike App keeps track of all of my runs, and my friends runs, but they took away the challenge aspect, and I cannot communicate with them about their run.  Map My Run does keep track of work outs, diet, and they will even work with you on a workout plan.  All of this and we still want to talk smack to our friends, challenge them with different goals, and hold each other accountable in any way we see fit (pun intended). Fitness apps are even taking popular topics such as zombies and making it fun to run as you immerse yourself into a game where zombies are chasing you and you must run to escape (Zombies, run!).  Reminds of a live version of Temple Run only with a plot line. I am going to be using this App this week to test it out so check back for my review!

All of this to say that we as humans by nature are social people and for me going to the gym, seeing others work out alongside you, and talking to a person about fitness can’t be replaced by an app…yet? Regardless of your opinion on Apps replacing the gym, stay fit, walk a mile today, set goals and be healthy!

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