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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Today, I wanted to upload one page of a PDF to Google Docs. PDF documents are great, but they are not all that user friendly. I have split documents before using different programs that are downloaded to the computer. However, many of these only look free. They watermark your copies and then want payment in order to get them removed. Then you have to remove the program from your computer.
SPLIT PDF is a handy online app that makes pulling a page out of a PDF painless. No downloading is required. Just upload the file, choose the page or pages you want removed from the PDF and click SPLIT. The job is done. You can then save the new page to your computer.

This is one of those really simple apps that can save a person from getting a big headache!

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This past week, my senior classes have been working on video projects. All of the video work was to be done outside of the classroom, so when students brought in their work, the classroom was full of various electronic devices used to record the videos, everything from tablets to laptops to phones of several different makes a models.

Of course, when I gave the assignment, I asked that students to make sure that there was a means of retrieving the video files from the devices before they actually did any recording. I knew that this would not happen, but it never hurts to try at the beginning of the project. Luckily, in one way or another, we were able to watch every single video on the projector in front of the room.

Don’t think it was easy. There were a few technical issues, but in the end, it all worked out.Here’s a few things we did to accomplish the task. Hopefully, these ideas can be of help for you in a future project.

The biggest lifesaver in showing the projects was a 50 in one card reader. Honestly, I am not sure that the small contraption could possibly read 50 different cards, but it certainly helped us to access many of the videos from the various student devices. Probably the biggest help was in reading micro SD cards from student phones. Many of the newer smart phones have a micro SD. Sometimes, if the student has the cord, the phone can be hooked up to the computer, but someone has to have the right cord. This is usually the case. Not only was the card reader useful in reading the mini SD, but we also had to read a Memory Stick Pro Duo.

The next biggest challenge came when a student, and several of his friends, used his new Galaxy Tab to record their videos. He didn’t have a cord to access the tablet, and he didn’t have a card either. This meant that all 23 of us were going to have to huddle around the small screen to watch the video, but then we had an idea! We opened up the webcam on the laptop and the student simply held the tablet up in front of the camera. He plugged the speakers into the tablet so we had good sound. The picture was a little shaky, but I was surprised how well it worked. Before class was over, we ended up doing this with two more tablets.

Another issue we ran across was videos that were not playing correctly. Many of the videos that were recorded using an iPhone wanted to play sideways in Media Player on my PC. After a watching a few videos with our heads cocked sideways, it dawned on me to open the videos off of the iPhone in QuickTime, which is an Apple product. That did the trick. The videos played upright. The same was also true for two videos that played normally but didn’t have any sound. When opened in QuickTime, they played correctly. It was just a formatting issue.

 

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Photo by Martin Bodman

In her recent article on MashableSarah Kessler examines data from a one-to-one laptop program in Peru. The title of the article gives the final conclusion in the study: “2.5 million laptops later, one laptop per child doesn’t improve test scores.”

This is a hard pill to swallow for those of us who spend everyday wishing for a one-to-one program in our own schools. On one hand, the findings are not all that surprising. Test scores do not seem to be going up anywhere, whether students are using technology or not, so this serves as another reminder that the education system needs work. On the other hand, why does everyone think that the sole use for computers in schools needs to be in the name of improving test scores?

Maybe this is what is irritating me about the article so much. Not anywhere is there mention of how the computers were used within these schools. Were students learning how to use the computer? Learning to write in Word or make a PowerPoint are great skills, but they certainly aren’t going to show up as evidence of learning on a standardized test.

Here’s the point: students will only show growth when using technology in a manner that makes them think about the subject they are supposed to learn.

Can this be done with paper and pencil? Sure it can. Teachers have been doing it for a hundred years. Skeptics of using technology in the classroom are quick to bring this up in conversation, but the days of paper and pencil are over. When I think of how much I time I spend writing with a pen compared to how much time is spent typing on a keyboard, I might as well throw my pen away. If this were shown visually in a graph, the use of a writing utensil wouldn’t even register.

Computers are the means used to read and write in 21st Century. Yes, I also included reading here. Once again, the majority of my reading is done on some sort of screen whether it is the computer, my Kindle, or my iPhone,  and this is coming from the teacher, who in the eyes of my students, is old and out of date.

Just think of how they view reading and writing.

To say that computers are going to improve test scores is like saying that if I have wings I can fly. This isn’t just going to magically take place. However, if I learn to use a vehicle with wings, then my chances of flying are much greater. Computers are the current vehicle for learning.

We don’t use the cart and horse anymore. It’s just too slow.

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Tonight, I was working on some fake Facebook resources and clicked on My Fake Wall, a resource that I have used in the past. The link took me to a page that said the site was offline. There was no indication of when it would be up and running again. There is a chance that it never will be. I was glad that using this site was not in the plans for class tomorrow!

This reminded me that no matter how well prepared you think you are, when using technology, there is always a chance of failure. The batteries in the camera die. The computer crashes. A website is down at the precise time that your classroom of thirty students is trying to log on. Believe me, this has happened to me more than once.

The web is unpredictable in this way, and I imagine it always will be. Maybe I should also say that the web is predictable in this way. At some point, it is going to let you down.

Having a decent backup plan is a must.

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My dream classroom would include the following:

  • Class set of laptops (preferably Mac Book Pro’s)
  • Class set of iPod Touches complete with a charging station
  • A Smart Board (even if they aren’t quite as nifty as they seem)
  • Document Camera
  • Clickers (probably SMART since I have the board)
  • Surround sound speaker system (Bose would be nice!)

I guess I will stop there. I am not even going to delve into the different software and apps that I want downloaded on all the machines.

What are the chances of me having my dream classroom? Pretty slim. Okay, very slim, but I can dream. Really, it’s not about what I want because I’m not going to get it all, and even if I did, technology changes so quickly that keeping up is impossible.

The whole point here is not wishing for tools that I don’t have to use in the classroom. Dream a bit and then snap out of it. Being a good teacher is all about using what we already have. Take a minute and assess what you already have at your disposal. Talk to the principal. Talk to the school librarian. Talk to other teachers. I bet there is a much more in your school than you are aware of. One school I worked in had several sets of clickers that were still factory sealed because no one used them. I don’t even know if anyone knew they existed.

Make a list of what you can use and get after it. There’s plenty to keep you busy.

 

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