Monday, April 21, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Android Apps


Two nights ago, I decided to try out a new app--Clean Master--on my Android phone. It allows you to selectively turn android programs off. Next thing I knew, I had to reset my Samsung Galaxy S4 back to factory settings and then reload it. So, I won't be doing that again. Of course, I had to revisit my list of favorite Android apps.
Image Source: http://goo.gl/LWj1WM

Here are 27 essential apps (in my opinion) I loaded on it:
  1. AccuWeather - Great for getting that morning weather forecast!
  2. Aldiko - Allows me to read all my ePub books, as well as view other file formats.
  3. ASTRO File Manager - Never know when you'll need an easy way to poke around the innards of your Android phone's file system, or FTP files, or share content to Dropbox, Drive, etc.
  4. Battery Doctor - A wonderful battery saver that works great! Lots of nice features.
  5. Blogger - In case I need to blog (or more likely, correct) from my phone, this does the job.
  6. Bloove Agent - I've already written about Bloove, but think of it as a bulk SMS tool for sending text messages.
  7. Cal - A simple, beautiful calendar interface.
  8. Clean Master - Nice tool for keeping your phone clean and free of junk that slows it down. Just be careful with it.
  9. CloudMagic - My FAVORITE email program, supports Gmail, MS Exchange ActivSync, and allows you to easily drop emails into "cards" such as Evernote, Pocket, etc. GREAT!
  10. EasyTether Pro - This is how I am able to use my phone as an Internet connection via USB cable without paying extra money to my provider.
  11. Evernote & Evernote Widget - Great scanning and annotation tool, as well as notes, etc.
  12. Facebook - Keep up with family.
  13. Flash 3gp Video Player - Flash video player. Haven't used it yet.
  14. Ftp server - One of my favorite FTP Servers...makes it very easy to connect to my phone and upload files.
  15. GreatClips - Never know when you need a haircut and this allows one to schedule appointments. I would get irritated that I'd have to wait 30 minutes for a haircut, but now with this app, it's a lot faster.
  16. Handcent SMS - A great SMS/texting app that includes speech to text. 
  17. Hi-Q MP3 Recorder - A high quality MP3 audio recorder. Comes in free and paid version; the paid version is worth it.
  18. hubiC - Free cloud storage, 25 gigs, based in France.
  19. i-nigma - QR code reader.
  20. KeePassDroid - Helps me keep track of my top secret passwords.
  21. Messenger - Facebook's instant messaging app. Quite nice.
  22. Pocket - ReadItLater's Pocket is great for bookmarking and saving content for offline viewing.
  23. Regal - Check out the movie schedule.
  24. S.S.E. - A fantastic encryption for files and folders. Works on all platforms so this means I can encrypt content on my computer, store it on my phone in encrypted format, unencrypt it when needed, securely wipe it when done.
  25. ShareMyApps - The app that I used to quickly export a list of apps from my device.
  26. Twitter - Obvious, huh?
  27. WhatsApp - An international app that is great for sending voice messages to others in your contacts. Costs $.99.
Generated by ShareMyApps

What would be your picks? To this list, I'd like to add Explain Everything and BookCreator.



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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Unexpected Message



Powerful message well worth heeding.


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Just One Thing - The Learner's Question



In response to my blog entry, Learning Evolves, faithful Around the Corner reader David Phillips shares the following story:
Regarding your post “Learning Evolves: From Cook to Chef in Today’s Classroom,” I was [convinced] a couple of years ago that I needed to stop [chucking] websites, apps and other resources at teachers in workshops.  I’ve been working on building sessions where I design learning using some of the best current tools for teachers to actually do in the session.  I did this with Google Drive/Docs last November at my TCEA Area...conference, and the teachers really enjoyed creating, collaborating and sharing their work.  I used this video as a basis for a response piece on effective teaching and learning:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdxEAt91D7k

Of course, I can’t cover as much ground, but most teachers benefit much more from this approach, especially when my goal is for them to “learn about learning.”
Again, the approach you take is determined by the goals of your workshop session. While it isn't pointless to spend time up front deciding what approach should be taken, I do disagree that all sessions must reach deep. Some of the best sessions I've attended included those that introduced me to a tool that I'd never seen before, but that I could use in various ways.

For example, David Warlick once gave a presentation on deep learning, etc. as a keynote address. In his presentation, he referenced a web site he was using. The reference was only, "This is where you can find my materials online for today's presentation," but I was fascinated by the power of the tool.

The solution was PMWiki, a free open source wiki solution. As a result I learned about a solution that I've used for various purposes:

  1. Setup a classroom wiki for a fifth grade teacher that enabled her students to create online portfolios for digital work.
  2. An ePortfolio site for my own
  3. A wiki site for a large urban district mobile initiative.
  4. Project management wiki
  5. A no-cost document management solution.

Amidst the slides David shared that day, all the neat stuff, only one thing stuck--the one thing I needed and has made me a hero when it counted. So, what's that one thing for you as a learner?



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Making Feedback on Writing Easy - Poetica.com

Earlier today, I received an email from Poetica.com's Anna regarding a beta service for offering feedback on online student writing.

Poetica.com
What's fascinating is the approach they take to accomplishing the feedback, which give the online feedback a "paper" approach. Here's an excerpt from the email Anna Maybank, co-founder, sent me:
We've created an editing experience that closely resembles scribbling notes over a physical piece of paper - something we think that's ideal for grading, giving student feedback and peer-to-peer support.
We're still in private beta and we have a limited number of invitations to give away to any students (and professors!) who would like to try out the service.  
This link should be good for 50 accounts: https://poetica.com/invites/ga0l88s3
The feedback Poetica enables more finely grained controls that what you see in GoogleDocs, which is what Poetica.com looked like to me when I first saw it. However, it quickly differentiates itself from GoogleDocs in the kinds of ways you can leave feedback. As a writing teacher, I definitely see Poetica.com as a useful alternative to providing feedback to student pieces.

You'll see what I mean in the screenshots below...






I definitely recommend that you check it out, in particular since Anna has been so generous as to offer 50 accounts (49 now that I've played around with it).

One additional point--Anna mentions that this is an "app" and I immediately asked if it was available for iPad, Android devices. The answer is as follows:
For now, it’s just accessible in the browser. We’ve *almost* finished optimising it for tablet/mobile use, also in a browser - but right now it only works properly on desktops. Give us a few weeks and we think it’ll work beautifully.
In the next few months, we’re probably going to make it available as an app in stores as well, but we’re not quite there yet. Source: Email from Anna
Of course, this works fine in the browser so Chromebooks won't have any issues!



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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lab of Netbooks

Source: http://goo.gl/jeQYIe
"How many of you have created a lab of netbooks?" When I first ran across a lab of netbooks, the network cables looked like blue concertina wire strung in between devices too small to handle the cabling. I promptly snapped a picture of it and sent it to my supervisor at the time. She was appalled as I was and a crew of technicians was sent to make the lab "more permanent." Still, no surprise when campus teachers led by a principal with a "Make It Happen!" attitude do just that.
In the meantime, we have lots of portable computers that are put into fixed labs and spend a frightening amount of time as a replacement for paper/pencil multiple choice tests.
There are stacks of clicker systems mostly in closets except when pulled out to use for a few minutes as a “fun” way to practice for standardized tests. (Source: Assorted Stuff)
As I read Tim's entry, that image of blue wire strung between netbooks keeps coming to mind. We're scrambling, as a Nation, to go digital, not so we can achieve the vision and promise that digital learning makes possible--creative, collaborate, critical thinking--but rather so we can do more efficiently that which dehumanizes us, that makes us into a series of numbers more easily fit into a legislator's sound byte.

Are network cables our new way of keeping people in digital concentration camps, people left yearning for something more?



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MyNotes - WiFi Advice

The following notes come from District Administration's April 2014 issue. The article is Where's My WiFi?
Image Source: http://goo.gl/z15e0a

My Notes:
  1. Bandwidth challenges can be broken down into 3 chunks:
    1. the bandwidth going from an individual device to an access point.
    2. the connectivity across the school's local area network (LAN)
    3. the school's connection to a wide area network (WAN) or internet service provider (ISP)
  2. WiFi access points connect to a school's LAN and some schools must upgrade their LANs to accommodate all additional WiFi traffic.
  3. It's the connection between the individual device and the access point that is "the bandwidth area that's most mysterious and where the bottleneck is for most schools."
  4. Schools used to deploy WiFi by signal coverage--they would put an access point in the hallway and see how far it would reach. But it doesn't really matter how far the signal covers. It depends on the level of service that a school wants to offer its student.
  5. An access point has a fixed amount of available "throughput," which is the amount of data that can move through a connection. Throughput usually measured in megabits per second, governs how fast a web page will load for the user or how often a video has to buffer.
  6. District leaders must realize that keeping up with bandwidth demand is likely to be an ongoing issue.
Great info to share with folks! I just had this conversation last week with others about planning for additional access points to ensure ample WiFi access in schools. In these days, the more WiFi access point determines the level of service--text data vs video--schools can provide.



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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Learning Evolves: From Cook to Chef in Today's Classroom


In my previous blog entry, Low Hanging Fruit, I challenged Dr. Scott Mcleod's assertion in 60 Apps in 60 Seconds that app focused workshops at conferences are a waste of time. In a follow-up comment on his blog entry, Scott asks the question:
I wonder how many of these types of sessions we have to go to – with concurrent lack of implementation and impact in our classrooms – before we realize they’re not really worth attending because there’s no depth of substance in which to root our learning and teaching…
The point is that no one is required to go to these sessions. They serve as entry points, doorways to greater learning possibilities. That's not to say one can't jump to higher-level blending of technology in the classroom, but that some educators find the use of app-centric workshops an easy way. So often we imagine that we, as human beings, may upon birth, stand up and run a marathon. Or, having learned to mix ingredients, become chefs.

The fact is, our understanding of how we learn, how we interact with a technology evolves over time. Learning to learn, to teach, to lead with technology becomes a conversation between ourselves and the technology. App-centric workshops are opportunities for "play." Even the Apostle Paul didn't imagine that young followers would be able to eat the meat of faith; instead, he advocated starting them out with milk (1 Corinthians 3:2).
I’d much rather have the conversation of what those reframes mean with my colleagues and administrators than talk about cool tools. It’s actually the reason I stopped doing Tech Tuesday midway through last year. It’s the reason I’m not on our Technology Leadership Team anymore. It’s why my principal has sent teachers in my building to see how I’m using Evernote. Not because Evernote is cool. Because my principal was having conversations with other teachers who were lamenting the fact that they are having trouble documenting the learning process their students are going through in their classrooms. My principal said, “I think I know someone who can help.” Learning needs lead to technology use. Source: Russ Goerend's comment on Educators Need Learning Advocacy, Not Technology Advocacy 
In my early years as a teacher, I disagreed vigorously with the idea that students must first accomplish lower order thinking--knowledge, application--before moving onto synthesis, evaluation and creation. My bilingual/ESL students, while acquiring a second language, could still think, even if their cognitive academic language proficiency was still developing. Students might speak English on the playground quite well, but have trouble understanding a textbook.

What app-centric workshops allow is a playground of sorts, a way for folks to begin and allow their own learning to evolve. Some may immediately eschew the app-centric workshops as being light fare compared to a problem-based learning activity that embed technology when appropriate for learning, for tracking student work.
In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful. Source:Stephen Krashen as cited online
In the real world, technology use with sympathetic learners who regularly use technology and are willing to help are more helpful than ivory tower academics proclaiming from their perches atop well-respected blogs. Source: Miguel Guhlin, Low Hanging Fruit
Finally, I recently experienced the same frustration Scott exhibits in his post. After a summer of app-centric workshops for an iPad initiative, I had to stop and ask, "Why are we introducing so many apps? Let's focus on 3-4 apps and really use those at the top level of SAMR." That realization pushed me towards App-Smashing as aligned to the Classroom Learning Activity Rubric.  That said, as I evolved from this approach to another, I realized that others might still be in "app-searching" mode. It is natural to find the best tools that fit your hand before you begin the real work.
Image Source: http://goo.gl/xBS2ep

I am reminded of Dr. Judi Harris' work, where she views teachers as instructional designers and artisans. As she points out, as teachers, we want to accomplish our own "reinvention" of an idea rather than just adapt someone else's. This means that we want start at the ground level--like an app-centric workshop--and then wend our way through to reinvention.
...most teachers don't really believe that learning to apply a new tool educationally is just a matter of "plug and play." Most of us know to "tweak" an idea to fit the unique nature of the context (learning styles and preferences, teaching styles and preferences, past experience, resource availability, etc.) in which they work. We expect to learn from mistakes and unexpected reactions when an idea is first implemented. 
Yet we know from both experience and research (e.g., Rogers, 1995) thattweaking someone elseís idea isn't nearly as satisfying, or as effective, as designing an activity that fits the unique combination of factors that present themselves in any particular classroom at any particular point in time.  
Reinvention; the process of taking something like a new tool or idea and making it our own in its application, is very important to both teachers and students. Feelings of ownership are crucial if new tools are to continue to be employed in ways that will benefit users. This is what is known as true adoption of the innovation (Rogers, 1995). Think about it: which is more satisfying - watching an original idea that you created succeed, or observing someone elseís idea that you borrowed and tweaked get a good reception? 
When we are asked to wade through large collections of lesson plans, replicate projects from other classrooms, or follow overly-prescriptive directions for educational activities written by folks who canít possibly know our students as we do, we are asked to ignore much of what experience and reflection have taught us. Using Internet tools and resources in our classrooms in ways that will benefit students and teachers - in ways that are truly worth the time, effort, energy, and expense - call upon us to function more as instructional designers than direction-followers. Creating and implementing learning activities as a designer is an artisan's endeavor. I speak to you as that artisan; analogously, as chef rather than cook; conductor rather than metronome; educator rather than automatron.
We complain that today's education system is a top-down effort to strip away the opportunities of teachers and learners to be autonomous. That is akin to being forced to serve as line cooks rather than chefs of our own classrooms and student learning.



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Monday, April 14, 2014

Low Hanging Fruit: 3 Simple Ideas @mcleod #edtech

Watching a presentation by two book authors at a conference earlier this year, a colleague sitting next to me remarked, "Wow, they included all the low-hanging fruit. I expected more." It was a valid criticism if you imagine that every book or publication should address technology integration strategies of some sort.
Image Source: http://goo.gl/o0l3lY

However, while I agree that this type of sharing is "low-level," it's important that we continue to share. The act of sharing can be fun and enjoyable for educators, as well as anyone. To insist that sharing always aim for the uppermost branches of learning can be a tough, stressful series of actions.

As I was working my way through various emails, I ran across the following from Stacy Behmer:
Hold on to your hats boys and girls because we will try to fly through 60 great Chrome web apps and extensions in 60 minutes! Chrome apps and extensions are what help you make the most of the web. Web apps are those shortcuts to websites you can use and I'll showcase some that tie in with Google Drive and then we will look at some of my favorite Chrome extensions to help make your browsing experience more efficient and these extensions can also be used to help support accommodations for students! READY... SET...GO! 




It immediately made me think of Dr. Scott Mcleod's blog entry, 60 apps in 60 seconds, where he points out:
How many sessions like these have we seen at educational technology conferences? (fess up: how many have we delivered?!) Teachers attend, they scribble notes madly, they ask for the slides afterward because “they missed some.” The long-term substantive impact of these spray-and-pray workshops on teachers’ day-to-day practice? Zero.
I must disagree with Dr. Mcleod. While not all teachers will embrace ALL of what has been shared, some teachers will reach for the one item that engaged them. The spray-and-pray approach reminds me of Stephen Krashen's second language acquisition theory of comprehensible input, or i+1.
According to this hypothesis, the learner improves and progresses along the 'natural order' when he/she receives second language 'input' that is one step beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence. (Source)
In technology parlance, that would be, learning how to use technology that is one step beyond current usage. For example, MS Word to GoogleDocs.

Here's the text:
Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill. Acquisition requires meaningful interaction in the target language - natural communication - in which speakers are concerned not with the form of their utterances but with the messages they are conveying and understanding.  
The best methods are therefore those that supply 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. These methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are 'ready', recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production. 
In the real world, conversations with sympathetic native speakers who are willing to help the acquirer understand are very helpful. Source: Stephen Krashen as cited online
While we are talking about language acquisition here, I suppose that this theory might lend itself to using technology as well. Let's revise this perspective--totally unsubstantiated by research, of course--to reflect technology instruction:

  1. Technology integration does not require extensive use of conscious pedagogical rules, or tedious drill. Integration requires meaningful interaction in the use of technology-blended instruction in which learners are concerned, not with what technology, but the how the technology expands their learning.
    Example: Share popular apps with learners that help them achieve something relevant and meaningful to them. Although not all apps shared in 60 seconds will be useful to all, some will be.
  2. The best methods are therefore those that supply technology use scenarios in low anxiety situations, focused around uses that learners really want to adopt for their own. These methods do not force early production at a high level, but allow learners to produce when they are 'ready,' recognizing that integration comes from supplying comprehensible input.
    Example: Can you think of a more low anxiety situation as a conference where someone is promising to share apps with you? Not only can you practice lecture student role--which all of us are familiar with and agree is fairly non-threatening--you can revisit the presentation at your leisure.
  3. In the real world, technology use with sympathetic learners who regularly use technology and are willing to help are more helpful than ivory tower academics proclaiming from their perches atop well-respected blogs.
    Example: It's so easy to be critical of folks, but those who are sharing "where the rubber meets the road" technology uses provide an entry point to higher learning.
;-)

Seriously, wasn't that fun? Low-hanging fruit, indeed!






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Database Magic on the GNU/Linux Desktop

Is your preferred desktop GNU/Linux? If it is, then you may be as excited as I to discover Kexi, a database program that works on GNU/Linux distributions (e.g. Ubuntu, Debian, etc.). I was thrilled to discover a program that would not only interface with local copies of data, but also with MySQL databases.
sudo apt-get install kexi - this command works on Debian/Ubuntu systems to install Kexi
Get Kexi Now!

I needed to be able to run SQL queries on 22K row CSV file, and, since I was on CrunchbangLinux, I didn't see an easy way of accomplishing that. Kexi to the rescue! What I especially liked was the ability to run SQL queries:
SELECT submit_date, campus, technician, computer_type, request_type, requestor, room, request FROM report WHERE report.submit_date <= '2014-04-13' AND report.campus = 'ArmstrongCampus' AND report.submit_date >= '2013-08-01'
Watch these screencasts to get a feel for it, here are some screenshots,

It is not yet available for download on Mac and Windows...aww.

What features Kexi currently offers?
Read the Kexi Features page, look at the screenshots. Use the Kexi handbook.
Find an announcement for the newest release and look at the "Unsupported features" document added for this release.
How to use database servers with Kexi?
First, note that you do not need to use database servers at all - you can use file-based builtin database server built into Kexi (SQLite-based, very much like MS Access, but a bit more robust).

If you want database servers, PostgreSQL and MySQL are supported. Create a new blank database project on server using Kexi's startup dialogs. Kexi will ask you to define connection data with connection dialog and select database name, so you will be able to just pick this predefined connection later. You can also use command line options to create and drop database projects. Also read here (October 2004).

Notes:
- Kexi assumes the account of the database server you use has enough permissions for creating a new database and use it. You may want alter the permissions (at least temporarily) using administration tools dedicated for your database server (Kexi itself does not contain such tools). If you're unsure how to do this, ask your database administrator or support.
One thing I noticed I couldn't do was delete via SQL command. I will have to investigate this further.

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Conference - TechFiesta



"Review, share and learn about the latest technology trends including tools, integration and management that are resulting in success. Hardware, integration, software, services and techniques will be showcased on the exhibit floor. Workshop sessions will be available.  Six (6) hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credit applies for each day of attendance. "


REGISTER
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Why Attend?

Door Prizes
Exhibitors
Keynote Speakers
Letter to Administrator
Mini Keynotes
Schedule at a Glance
Sessions
Day 1
Day 2

Tech Fiesta App
http://fanapp.mobi/techfiesta 





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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure