Archive for December, 2014

YouTube for Schools vs YouTube EDU

Note from Laura: Sean has done fairly extensive reading on YouTube for Schools and YouTube EDU and I have done some, and they are confusing! Below is Sean’s best explanation of them without getting too technical with filter and firewall talk.

Sean: What are YouTube for Schools and YouTube EDU, and which does GRACE use and why?

YouTube EDU is a set of videos that YouTube categorizes based on certain segments of students. There are sections for medicine, primary and secondary education as well as university level videos. These videos are very valuable and can be anything from learning a specific math equation to a full lecture on chemistry at the university level. Currently GRACE uses this model to allow high school students the ability to access these videos. We can also add additional videos that are not included if deemed to be of educational value.

YouTube for Schools works a bit differently: a file is inserted at the school level to distinguish which videos are educational. This approach is a bit more technical and not as open as the YouTube EDU option. For this reason again GRACE mostly uses the YouTube EDU option.

You can access the YouTube education channel by going to www.youtube.com/education. High school students at GRACE get redirected automatically to this site when accessing YouTube.

Hope this information has been helpful!

Favorite Databases

One component of a 1:1 environment includes increased access to more online information using various technology devices. Our school continues to evaluate and re-evaluate our online resources, be they textbooks, databases, or ebooks. All should be examined against one’s collection development policy and used on a trial basis before purchasing.

One of our key online resources at GRACE is Britannica School and its companion database, ImageQuest, from Encyclopedia Britannica.  I (Carol) will review both together and share how we use them at GRACE.

Britannica School is an award-winning online resource with differentiated, reliable information for students in Kindergarten-12th grade. A student can have fun with online activities, watch videos on their topic, and look up encyclopedic information on places, or people. Students can move up or down a reading level as needed, using one of the three portals — Elementary, Middle School, and High School — to access information via a tablet, laptop, iPad, or other Internet-enabled device.

Reliability, ease of use for the student, access via multiple devices, and informational content that meets Common Core Standards makes the Britannica School a good online resource for schools.

ImageQuest is a companion resource from Encyclopedia Britannica — and an award-winning image database for students in Kindergarten-12th grade.With almost THREE million rights-cleared images, it is a resource for teachers and students alike. Teachers can use the images in academic publications, lesson plans, and classroom activities, while students can use it for projects-based learning, student web pages, and homework assignments.

ImageQuest houses images from 50 of the best digital image collections in the world including National Geographic Society, Getty Images, and National Portrait Galley of London. It won the 2014 ISTE Best of Show Award earlier this year.

Access to high-quality images on all topics, free of advertising, and from trustworthy sources, in one location makes ImageQuest a valuable resource for schools.

For more information, see Britannica School and ImageQuest.

A History of 1:1 at GRACE

When I (Diane) started at GRACE 12 years ago, we had about 14 donated computers in a computer lab and maybe 2 or 3 computers in the office area. Today, we have approximately 520 Apple MacBook air student computers and 64 Apple MacBook Pro teacher computers, and about 8 Windows desktop computers in the office area. We began a technology initiative that we call E4 and have developed a culture of technology use that permeates all aspects of our academic mission. The last five years have been interesting and exhausting, at times frustrating and scary, but mostly very exciting and productive.

It all started with a 5-year technology plan written in 2009-2010 that included the idea that we should consider providing some type of computer devices to students by the 2014-2015 school year. But the real push came from an area that was not even considered in the technology plan at that time: ebooks. In 2010-2011, GRACE decided to start using ebooks for our textbooks in several classes. They were cheaper and had more information and resources in them than the traditional textbooks. As students began using the new ebooks, an unexpected problem arose that we never had with textbooks. Families with siblings now needed to figure out how to share one home computer so their students could access ebooks from home for homework. We had to find a better solution!

We investigated and tested many options such as Windows laptops, tablets, netbooks, iPads, and proprietary tablets that at the time were large and bulky. We talked to many schools in the area to see what they were doing and how successful they have been. Then we visited Mooresville Graded School District near Charlotte. Mooresville is a leader in digital conversion in education and they were very willing to share what worked and what did not work and how they achieved their success. What we learned from Mooresville was that it’s not about the hardware or the software; it’s all about the people and the students. It’s about engaging the students and completely changing the classroom environment. We witnessed students totally engaged in learning. They were collaborating and sharing what they were learning with their peers. Their teachers were acting more as facilitators to guide and assist the students in what they were working on. More advanced students were given the freedom to move ahead and to dive deeper into an area that interested them while struggling students were able to get more one-on-one attention from the teacher.

We came back fired up about what we saw at Mooresville. We knew that if they could do it for 5000 students, we could do it here at GRACE for 350+ students. Several of our administrators went with us to Mooresville, so they also caught the vision of what technology could do for our students. We sat down and began to defining what we wanted to accomplish and what our goals should be. During this time we came up with our technology vision statement which is: Embracing technology in a collaborative learning community, GRACE will engage and empower students to excel in the digital age. This is how our digital initiative came be known as E4. It’s for the 4 “E”s of embrace, engage, empower and excel.

So just a few months later, in March of 2011, we rolled out our first Macbook laptops to a very surprised group of teachers. We spent a lot of time with them on the “why” of using technology in the classroom. We painted a very positive exciting vision of where we wanted to go with our E4 initiative. We had begun a culture change at GRACE. It wasn’t about the technology but rather about what the technology can allow us to do differently with our students. We began down a new road and while our teachers were nervous about it, they were beginning to see the benefits too. In the beginning of the next school year, in August 2011, Macbook laptops were given out to all 5th through 12th grade students to use for the year and take home daily while 4th grade students were given Apple Macbooks to use in their classroom.

We are now in our 4th year of our E4 initiative and this year we will graduate our first class that has been part of the E4 initiative for all four years of high school. Those students are very proficient in utilizing technology in all aspects of their education and lives. They can research effectively, use digital tools to help stay organized, create videos and multimedia presentations and projects, and collaborate with peers. They have become good digital citizens that understand what their digital footprint is and how to cite their digital sources. They are very well prepared for whatever they decide to do after high school.They won’t be leaving GRACE with just a body of knowledge but more importantly, they will be leaving with the tools and experience to be able to learn and research anything that comes their way. The technology at GRACE has allowed them to become lifelong learners.

Things have change a lot since I started at GRACE but especially in the last five years. Recently, we have hosted several schools that want to come and see what we are doing with our technology. We always share the details with them of how we got to where we are today. After each one of these meetings, I am always reflective and amazed at all that we have accomplished so far. I tell people all the time that one of the things that I am most proud of about our technology transition is the attitude and willingness of our teaching staff and the support of the administration. Administration provides an environment that allows teachers to try new things and our teachers are always willing to be vulnerable in front of their students and be creative with technology. They are on the ‘front line’ of this technology culture change for GRACE and they are key to the success of our E4 initiative. We have come a long way and we have only gotten started! I wonder what the next five years will hold for GRACE?

Can 3rd Grade Students Learn to Type?

When I learned to type, I (Dana) was in high school. We had no portable labs and no wireless networks (which didn’t really matter since we had no internet). Typing used to be a skill that was optional. It was an elective you would take if you thought you were interested in the technology or office administration lines of work.

Over the years, I have seen typing classes migrate their way down to younger and younger grades. In 2002, I was involved in typing classes with 7th and 8th grades. In 2011, I was observing typing classes at the 5th-6th grade level. Now, in 2014, I am teaching typing to 3rd graders.

Some may argue that 3rd grade students are not ready for typing. In fact, a couple years ago, I may have shared this opinion. Yet today, I absolutely believe 3rd graders are more than ready to learn how to type.

Whether students are using tablets, desktops, or laptops, typing is a key skill that needs to be developed. Though voice input is getting better and better, the keyboard is still the #1 human interface with technology. Tablets, desktops, laptops, and pretty much every mobile device on the market has a QWERTY keyboard that can be used as an interface (well, QWERTY keyboards here in the US at least).

What I have noticed with my 3rd grade typists is that they are ready. I enforce keeping your eyes on the screen… and they do it. I enforce hands on the home row… and they do it. This begs the question, “yeah, but how successful are they?” Well, my first results are in, and I show tremendous success.

I’ve recorded the scores of my 3rd graders and have found that there is a 96%+ accuracy in the F and J keys. Those that have moved on to D and K keys are showing about the same 96%+ accuracy. On a few occasions I have recorded 100% accuracy in a particular lesson (F, J, D, and K). Also, I would note that I teach this class in 30 minute intervals twice a week. The student time on the device rarely exceeds 20 minutes as we have to unload/load the devices in the cart as part of the 30 minutes.

When we began the year, I was thinking…this is impossible. These students will never get the hang of this. Now, I am blown away with success… and great success at that.

The technology we are currently using:

  • 20 Lenovo Chromebooks
  • Licensing for Typing Agent (a web-based program)
  • A “Black Box” cabinet/cart that can house 27 (3 rows of 9) devices

I would encourage you. If you are on the fence about starting typing as young as grade 3, you really should embrace the idea. I totally believe we will have turned our class of hunt/peck students into fluent typists by the end of the year.