Another Great Update for the Google Drive App

There was a big update for the Google Drive app for iOS today. The last update gave us the ability to create and edit word processing documents in the app, manage sharing, and upload pictures and video. This time we got:

  • Create and edit spreadsheets within the app (including realtime collaboration on shared spreadsheets)
  • Upload any filetype from other apps using “Open in…”
  • Manage file uploads

These are all great improvements, but the biggest change in my opinion is the “Open in…” feature. I tried it out and found that I could create a document in Pages and then upload that document in .pages format to my Google Drive. Once there, I can share that document with another user, who can then download and view the work in Pages on his iPad or Mac! I was also able to upload a large Keynote file in the .key format.

The upshot of all this is that now we have a way to share all sorts of filetypes without resorting to email (and the limitations that brings). For example, I can have a student create a great Keynote presentation and then turn it in via Google Drive without worrying that the file is too big to attach to an email.

Google has really improved their Drive app in the last few months to make it an excellent option for use on the iOS platform. What features would you like to see them add next? Let us know in the comments!

100 Learning?

100 Cute?

For my son, 100 is the biggest number in existence. If you ever want to express the idea that something is truly superlative, just label it with 100. For example, if you had a really great time at the park today, you had “100 fun.” If I am eagerly awaiting a weekend birthday party, I’m “100 excited.” You get the idea.

Of course the idea of using a quantitative measurement for an abstract concept is ludicrous. But he’s four years old, so we give him a pass. After all, he’s cute!

As I think about the way we treat assessment in our classrooms, it occurs to me that we might do the same thing. I teach a unit. I give a test. A student takes that test and gets a 92. He now has 92 learning.

We have attached this type of quantitative measurement to teaching and learning for so long now that it doesn’t even strike us as being odd. We never ask the question, “what do these numbers mean?” Are we measuring what we think we’re measuring? Are we even using the right unit of measure?

The fact that we’ve been using this method for so long should suggest that a) something about it works, b) its too hard to do anything else, or c) we’re afraid of what a better assessment might reveal. I suppose there is also a third option – a combination of the first three.

I am willing to admit that there is a correlation between a student’s grade in a class and his ability to show mastery of the concepts. But when we use those grades to rank and sort and determine important life decisions like college entrance is correlation enough? And when we also use factors like “neatness” and “class participation” in the equation, does that not lessen the correlation?

All this to say, I find myself more and more on the student portfolio bandwagon. Not just because it is the latest fad in assessment and not because it gives me another opportunity to use technology to solve a problem. I am in favor of the idea because in a world where the number we assign to a student can make or break him we owe it to that student to be as comprehensive and transparent with the grading process as possible. A cumulative portfolio of student work gives us a tool to attempt just that.

Of course no single classroom teacher can change the entire structure of academic assessments. But just because you still have to give a grade doesn’t mean you can’t also provide a portfolio. If what people like Tony Wagner (of Harvard University) and others say is true, colleges and universities are slowly starting to see the value of a portfolio in their admissions process, while simultaneously devaluing standardized assessments.

How can you do this in your classroom? Here’s a simple two-step solution:

  1. Assign meaningful work
  2. Archive the products of that work

Step one is really the hard part. Keeping an archive is easy. There are a variety of ways to do this, including just taking pictures or making recordings of the student’s work. You can then save it to a hard drive or post it to a blog so that there is a lasting record of what that student has done. Use standardized file formats so that they are easily accessible across platforms, and you’ve got an invaluable tool for that student to give an authentic account of what he or she can do.

We can argue all day about whether the educational system will ever change to fully adopt methods like this for assessment. The answer to that question, however, is irrelevant. If we can see the value in the endeavor and know that it is technically possible, why not start now?

We 100 owe it to our students.

The Personal Learning Network – Practice What You Preach

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” – Luke 6:40

This, for a teacher, should be one of the most sobering passages in scripture. The idea that my students will be like me when fully trained gives me a renewed focus to “practice what I preach.” In other words, am I an example of what I want my students to be?

It is easy to gloss over this idea with a simple “yes” and move on. If my objective is for my students to have knowledge of a subject then I can affirm that I do know my subject. However, if my objective is more than just knowledge, but also includes actions and dispositions, then the scene is a bit more cloudy.

To answer this question, we must first be clear on exactly what we want our students to be like. Again, the question is not “what should they know,” but rather, “what should they do.” Lately we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the ideas around the “4 C’s.” Creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration are the skills we say are necessary for our students to bear influence in the world that they will inherit. We could probably add a few things to that list, but I think it is certainly a good starting point.

So then, in light of the wisdom of Luke 6:40, what is the example that you are setting for your students? I would ask if you “model” the 4 C’s, but I don’t think that word is strong enough. To really do this, we must truly embody the 4 C’s, not just model them. Its not enough for us to talk about these things in class, they must be part of who we are! I think of it as the old idea of being a “lifelong learner,” re-imagined for the 21st century.

This is a tall order for many. Our lives are filled with so many things, who has time to invest in remaking ourselves into a 4 C’s teacher? It seems such a daunting task, but there are things that we can do to lower the barrier to entry and get ourselves moving in that direction.

To that end, I want to spend a few posts expanding on the idea of a “Personal Learning Network,” or PLN. Your PLN is a network of people around you that you can interact with and learn from. They may be people you know or (thanks to the magic of the internet) people who you may never meet. It is a sort of etherial thing that can bring real growth in the way that you think about your classroom and your students. It is a place for two-way interaction through conversations, comments, and even tweets! And, perhaps most importantly, it is something that you can initiate with surprisingly little effort.

So, I’m going to spend the next several weeks developing this idea a little more fully. In the mean-time, here are a few links to sites that expand on the idea of PLN’s – mostly without the Biblical guilt trip. 🙂

Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips – Mark Wagner, Getting Smart

5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network – Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator

PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy – Kate Klingensmith, Once A Teacher…

Did you know that if you do a Google image search for "iPad" and "Hammer" you will get a bunch of pictures of MC Hammer? Me neither!

Thoughts from Boston (other than “I don’t like snow anymore”)

I discovered that I don’t like it when it snows sideways!

I was fortunate enough to spend three days this week in Boston attending the first EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, held on the campus of Harvard Medical School. This was a fantastic time of learning and discussion with great presenters and thought-provoking questions. It was also an opportunity for me to experience my first “Nor’easter” – an experience I could have done without! I had never experienced snow that was parallel to the ground. I also did not know what it felt like to be a human snowdrift. I can now check both of those items off my bucket list.

I will be sharing quite a bit of what I heard with you through this blog over the next several days, but I wanted to start with a thought that was shared by Justin Reich (Co-founder of EdTechTeacher) on his blog before the conference ever began:

If you meet an iPad on the way, smash it.

This, of course, is a statement designed to grab your attention. It is also an important point about how we use iPads. In his post (to which you can find a link below) Justin discusses how we must guard against turning our attention to the “what” — iPads and apps and systems and tricks — at the expense of the more important question: “Why.” As we move forward in this new paradigm of school in a 1-to-1 program, we must remember that the idea is for every student to have an iPad, not for every iPad to have a student. The main thing is still the teaching and learning. The iPad is a tool that we are using at this particular point in time and space. It is a fantastic tool, to be sure, but it won’t last forever. Our attention must be squarely focused on the things that will.

So, take a moment to read Justin’s post yourself and then come back here and leave a comment. How are things going in your classroom? Do you struggle with losing sight of the students for all the iPads? Do you forget that there are iPads in the room? Could your class function exactly the same if we took away all the iPads today? I look forward to your thoughts!

If You Meet an iPad on the Way, Smash It — Justin Reich, EdTech Researcher

New in iOS 6 – Lock an iPad into one app

When Apple releases a new version of their operating systems, they never come with a user’s manual. We (the users) are expected to figure this stuff out as we go. In the case of iOS 6, they boast of over 200 new features, most of which are not specifically spelled out.

One exciting new feature for teachers is something called “Guided Access.” This feature allows you to lock an iPad so that it is “stuck” in one app only. You can do this on-the-fly, and can lock the iPad into any app of your choosing. Once the feature is turned on, it is a simple thing to engage and then turn off when you’re done. For a complete explanation of this feature and how to employ it, check out this post from the OS X Daily blog.

Enable “Kid Mode” on iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch

How Ed Tech Is Like Betamax – from Edudemic

In this article from the Edudemic blog, Beth Holland & Shawn McCusker compare the iPad movement and Ed Tech in general to the rise and fall of the Betamax format for VCR’s in the 80’s. Its a great read with excellent reminders about remembering the Big Picture as we dive into this iPad adventure.

How Education Technology Is Like Betamax – from Edudemic

Turn In Video Assignments with Google Drive for iOS

One of the more challenging tasks for teachers and students using iPads has been the issue of how students can turn in video assignments to a teacher. The initial solution that we offered was to have the student upload his finished work to YouTube so that the teacher could view it there. However, this solution is not without problems – most notably privacy concerns and the requirement that students be at least 13 years old to create a YouTube account.

A New Way to Share

With the publishing of the Google Drive app for iOS, we now have a very simple and powerful way for students to turn in video assignments that eliminates the age and privacy concerns mentioned above. The basic workflow with this method is:

  1. Create video in iMovie (or another app)
  2. Export finalized video to the Camera Roll
  3. Use the Google Drive app to upload the video to the student’s drive
  4. Share the video with the teacher

The Details

The first step in this process is to create the video. This can be done in iMovie or any other video tool on the iPad. Once the project is complete, send it to the Cameral Roll. In iMovie this is done by tapping the share icon and then selecting Camera Roll. The exact location of the share button may vary in other apps, but the basic process should be the same. Next select the export size – be careful that you don’t make your video so large that you run out of storage!

Once the video has been added to the Camera Roll, the next step is to open the Google Drive app. I am assuming here that you’ve already installed the app and have entered your account credentials. Once the app is open, tap the “+” button at the top of the screen. You will see several options to add items to your drive, with the third being “Upload Photo or Video.”

When you tap this option, you will be prompted to select a photo or video. Tap on the video that you just created and you will see it begin to upload. This may take a while depending on the size of the file, but it will continue even after the device goes to sleep.
After the upload is completed you will see your video in the list of files. Tap the arrow icon to the right of the file name to open the Details panel, which includes options for sharing. Tap the plus icon in the “Who has access” pane and type the full email address of the person you want to share with. If needed, you can even share with several people. Tap the “Add” button and the process is complete!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, this is a great method for sharing video without running into some of the headaches associated with using YouTube. It keeps your video private and allows you specific control over who can view your file. It also avoids problems due to file size limits in email and age limits on YouTube accounts.

So what do you think? Any suggestions to improve the process? Is there a problem we’re missing here? Let us know in the comments section!

5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads

EdTechTeacher has a great post on their blog about some of the most common pitfalls that schools face in their iPad implementations. Author Tom Daccord gives an excellent synopsis of what he sees as the 5 most critical. You can read his article here.

What do you think? Is he right? Did he leave anything out? How are we doing in these areas? Give your thoughts in the comments section!

Using Parental Restrictions in iOS 6

All BLS-issued iPads have what’s called a “configuration profile” installed on them. This file locks certain features of the device that we as a school have deemed unnecessary or inappropriate for our students. In addition to these blocked features, there may be certain apps or functions that you as a parent would like to block for your child. This is where Restrictions come into play.

Restrictions

The Restrictions section in the Settings app allows you as a parent to create a second layer of controls on the iPad that has its own separate passcode that only you know. This gives you the ability to turn off iMessages, app installations or deletions, and a variety of other items. it is important to note that some of the things we will discuss in this article require the iPad to be running iOS version 6.0 or higher. To check which version of iOS you have, go to Settings > General > About and look for the line that says “Version.” If the number there is lower than 6.0, go to Settings > General > Software Update to get the latest version of iOS.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do is to decide what you want to turn off or block on the iPad. If there are games or other apps you don’t want your child to have, go ahead and delete those. (To delete an app, tap and hold until it shakes and an “x” appears in the corner. Then tap the “x”. Press the home button when you’re finished.)

Next, if you want to turn off iMessages, go to Settings > Messages and turn the switch at the top to the “off” position.

Finally, if you want to remove any non-Ben Lippen email accounts, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Under “Accounts,” tap the name of the account you’d like to remove, and then tap the big red “Delete Account” button. Repeat this for any other accounts you want to remove. Note – please do not remove the benlippen.me account (which may be labeled as “GMail”) or the iCloud account.

Setting the Restrictions

Now that you’ve got the iPad in the state you want, go to Settings > General and tap “Restrictions.” Next, tap the button at the top that says “Enable Restrictions.” The iPad will then prompt you to create a 4-digit Restrictions Passcode. This is a new passcode that will be known only to you. DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILD THIS PASSCODE. If you do, it defeats the whole purpose of setting up the restrictions. The iPad will ask you to enter that code twice.

Once you’ve created the passcode, you can then make changes in the restrictions as needed. You will see that some options are not available because they have been locked by our configuration profile.

The items you will want to take particular note of include turning off Installing Apps and Deleting Apps. By doing this you can prevent your child from adding any new apps without your approval.

Other items you may want to consider:

  • iOS 6 has Twitter and Facebook integrated into the iPad. You have the option to turn both off in the restrictions.
  • Under the section that says Allow Changes, tap “Accounts” and then select “Don’t Allow Changes.” If you have previously turned off iMessage or deleted an email account, this will prevent the child from turning those back on.
  • Under “Game Center,” if your child is not able to moderate his or her gameplaying on the iPad, you may want to turn off “Multiplayer Games” and “Adding Friends.”

Conclusion

By enabling the restrictions on your son or daughter’s iPad, you have a tool to help your child use this device as a tool, and also to help him or her learn to exercise self-control and good judgement in the use of technology. Depending on the age of your child or your particular circumstances, you may or may not want to turn on some of these features. Whatever your situation, know that Ben Lippen desires to partner with you to give you the tools you need as you parent your children.

Questions? Comments? Join the discussion in the comments section below!