Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reflect, Don't Critique

Well, I think I might be ready to start my teacher blog!  If I share a draft with you, would you be brutally honest in it's critique?  ;)
Above, you see the request of a new teacher blogger. How would you reply?
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While some bludgeon others with their critical remarks in their blog, as a veteran blogger, I've come to a more mellow perspective. As a result, my response to queries like the one above take a different tack, as evidenced by my response below:
Blogs aren't to be critiqued, but rather, excerpted, reflected on through the filter of one's own experience, then written about...a learning conversation that blends experience, research when appropriate, and is inspired by others. 
So, rather than be brutally honest about critique, I'll be reflective about your inspiration.
Of course, if I search Around the Corner, I'm sure I'll find scathing critiques of ideas and policies, but seldom will that be about another blogger. The reason why is that the habit that has developed over time is to try to be reflective rather than invective.

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Living DRM-free: @Smashwords Difference @moellerjonathan @markcoker

Only yesterday, I dropped into a library to visit with a librarian (that's where you can find them, usually). We immediately started discussing ebooks and whether we should invest as schools in print books or ebooks.

"Until ebooks shed digital rights management (DRM)," I preached, "we should avoid them in K-12 schools and focus our funding on print books!" I remembered the enewsletter that author Jonathan Moeller (@moellerjonathan) is kind enough to share with his Goodreads readers:
I am pleased to report that FROSTBORN: THE DARK WARDEN, the sixth book in the FROSTBORN series, is now available on AmazonAmazon UKAmazon GermanyAmazon Canada,Amazon AustraliaBarnes & NobleKoboGoogle PlayApple iTunes, and Smashwords. In FROSTBORN: THE DARK WARDEN, Ridmark Arban at last reaches the cursed citadel of Urd Morlemoch to learn the truth of the Frostborn from the Warden, but the answer to Ridmark's question might destory him. You can read the first chapter of FROSTBORN: THE THE DARK WARDEN right here.
(BTW, I strongly encourage you to check out Jonathan Moeller's writing! Awesome stuff!)

As you might guess, I am an avid sci-fi and fantasy book reader. I LOVE to read but what I am thrilled about even more is the ability to get my favorite authors--like Jonathan Moeller--as DRM-free ePubs which work well on my iPad, Nook, or computer. Normally, you'd have to worry about where you can read your ebook, whether you can back it up...but with vendors like Smashwords, you don't have to--they offer your ebooks in DRM-free formats:
Smashwords is a virtual playground for those who love the written word. Readers can sample most works for free (and in many cases, read up to half of the book before they commit to a purchase decision); read in multiple DRM-free formats; create digital libraries of purchased and sampled works; publish reviews (including YouTube video book reviews); and “favorite” their favorite authors, publishers and works. (Read more about Smashwords)
I can certainly attest to the value of Smashwords and wished more of my favorite authors--in addition to Jonathan Moeller--would publish their books via Smashwords.

In the meantime, if you're wondering what I'm doing in lieu of blogging, this may serve as a clue...

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Embrace Different

What does it mean to be different? It's a question I've often reflected on, inconclusively. Ever since I realized that being bullied in middle school has forced me to step back from any social engagement, to observe the interactions of others and myself from afar, I've known I was apart, and different.

Over time, you come to value the power of individuality, the power to act in ways different than others. When considering a new initiative, I often ask, "Is this something your campus or district has done previously?" If the answer is a "No, we've never done this before," then I take some small measure of pride that I have helped folks make new tracks across the land. There is no guarantee that the results of acting differently will yield the desired results, but doing the same old thing and expecting different results...well, Einstein didn't think much of that either.

Dr. Scott McLeod points out:
But folks get defensive. And angry. Or they withdraw. Or they just get tired. Tired of hearing again and again that what’s occurring isn’t sufficient for either today or tomorrow. Even when maybe, just maybe, they also know it’s true.
It’s tough to be change advocates. Or change agents. Or pains in the butt, as some call us. It would be so much easier to temper the rhetoric, to roll back the expectations, to ramp back the pace. But we know that we need to stay the course. Because our students – and our educators – and our society – need and deserve something different.
These days, in educational technology, it IS time to do something different. In fact, when I do something I've never done before, I am grateful, not only for the learning opportunity it grants me, but also, the opportunity it offers others...whether they want it or not.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

12 Tools for Productivity on Your #Chromebook and #iPad

Have you ever asked yourself, "Can I do that with this device?" It's a lot of fun. For example, the iPad has become a bit of a boring tool for me, not because it's hard to do things with it, but rather, because I feel like I've mapped out workflows for what I commonly do. Once you map out what you do normally, you start to ask yourself, "What else can I do?"

Some of the common tasks--and the quick solutions I use on each--I expect to be able to do include the following (I've indicated in parentheses the cost of each, if it's not free):

  1. Email
    1. iPad: CloudMagic app (free and fantastic for iOS and Android!)
    2. Chromebook: Gmail web interface
  2. Web surfing
    1. iPad: Chrome, iCab ($1.99), Puffin (Flash friendly sites) browsers
    2. Chromebook: Chrome
  3. Curating content with ReadItLater's Pocket, Evernote and
    1. iPad: Evernote, ReadItLater's Pocket, EverClip2 (read my blog entry), Flipboard (read more)
    2. Chromebook: Evernote and their WebClipper, Clearly, ReadItLater's Pocket
  4. Blogging
    1. iPad: Posts, Blogger
    2. Chromebook: Blogger web site
  5. Reading and Creating ebooks
    1. iPad: 
      1. Create: Book Creator ($4.99)
      2. Read: Readdle's Documents, or Open in Nook
    2. Chromebook:
      1. Create: 
        1. Create GoogleDoc, save as HTML/PDF then Convert using 2ePub OR
        2. Create text in markdown using Writebox, then load it into dotEPUB's Create
      2. Read: Readium (read this article on creating with iPad and reading on Chromebook)
  6. Creating presentations
    1. iPad: Keynote (easy to embed videos), Haiku Deck
    2. Chromebook: GoogleSlides, Haiku Deck web
  7. Encrypting emails and files with AES-256 encryption
    (Note: this is for light privacy...i wouldn't trust it for serious stuff, whatever that is)
    1. iPad: Encipher.It, oPenGP ($4.99), MiniKeepass 
    2. Chromebook: MiniLock for file encryption, Encipher.It
  8. Virtual Private Network
    (If you don't have a VPN for your WiFi devices, then you need to watch this or read this)
    1. iPad and Chromebook: Private Internet Access ($40 a year)
  9. FTP/SFTP files to and from a web server, phone or location
    1. iPad: Readdle's Documents
    2. Chromebook: sFTP Client ($2.99)
  10. Audio Recording & Editing
    1. iPad: 
      1. Recording: Voice Record Pro, AudioNote ($4.99), Evernote (free)
      2. Editing: Hokasai (Free but requires in-app purchases to do anything worthwhile)
    2. Chromebook: 
      1. Recording: MicNote (can record audio played aloud from Chromebook AudioNote that allows you to take notes while you record! Free version records 2 mins but Pro version for $4.99 records for 2 hours with unlimited notes/recordings)
      2. Editing: Twisted Wave, Audiee
  11. Video Creation and Editing
    1. iPad: Explain Everything ($2.99 works for iOS and Android), Pinnacle Studio ($13)
    2. Chromebook: WeVideo
  12. Screencasting
    1. iPad: Reflector for your Mac/Windows computer and Quicktime for computer
    2. Chromebook: Screencastify (makes HTML5/webm files), TechSmith SnagIt (need extension and app; makes MP4s) 
It's pretty amazing when you consider what can be done on a Chromebook and how easy and flexible it is. What fun to revisit my favorite apps, as well as discover some on Chromebook or for Chrome browser, that can be used.

Of course, there are some places where the iPad wins...but in a classroom, you're not likely to be in an either/or situation. 

BTW, My MiniLock ID is 
"He who does not move does not notice his chains." 
Source: Rosa Luxemborg as cited by Glenn Greenwald

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Book Review: Deadly Odds (Updated 10/4/2014)

Image Source: Wikipedia
In late September, I received an email making me aware of a book entitled, Deadly Odds, by Allen Wyler.
We’re currently raising awareness for our upcoming techno-thriller Deadly Odds by award-winning author Allen Wyler, to be published in October. And to promote its release, I’m contacting you on the off chance that you might be interested in a suspenseful, fast-paced thriller about a young computer genius whose impressive hacking skill gets him involved in a web of international terrorism. If so, we’d love to send you a complimentary advance copy of the book (ebook or print) for a possible review on your site, Around the Corner.
Astor and Blue Bookstore
So, I said, "Sure, why not?" Who wouldn't like to read a book like that? In a short time, I was emailed a DRM-free ebook (epub, mobi) for review...great!

If you have been following the Edward Snowden leaks, as well as been perturbed by the illegal spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA), or are intrigued by the Darknet, The Onion Router (TOR) to anonymize your browsing, then you'll find this work of "fiction" to be up your alley! It will probably end up as supplemental reading in some government operative's booklist to introduce them to the vocabulary of the hidden web.

Terms like "The Hidden Wiki," "DarkNet" and "DeepWeb"--surprisingly, I didn't see TAILS--are liberally sprinkled through the text, FBI agents appear befuddled and the NSA is invoked.
Deep Web (also called the Deepnet,[1] Invisible Web,[2] or Hidden Web[3]) is World Wide Web content that is not part of the Surface Web, which is indexed by standard search engines. . .Some prosecutors and government agencies think that the Deep Web is a haven for serious criminality.[4] Source: Wikipedia

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You'll be, as I was, thoroughly engaged by the antics of the 23-year old online gambler who has developed a system for making predictions that pay off...he manages to pay off the debt of his mysteriously murdered parents, pays off their debts, but it all goes downhill from the starting gate. A few days of debauchery in Las Vegas strip the protagonist of his innocence and embroil him in a cyber-terrorist plot similar to "the Twin Towers."

Here's a little background on the story:
The novel follows Arnold Gold, a self-described “computer nerd” with a knack for hacking, and an equal knack for not getting girls. A spontaneous trip to Vegas “to get lucky,” however, puts him in the path of a group of murderous terrorists who want Arnold’s system to enact a terrorist attack in Sin City. This leads to a high-stakes game of survival as Arnold fights to stay one step ahead of the terrorists, the FBI, and the local cops--all while using his tech-savvy to prevent the deadliest terror attacks since 9/11. 
Arnold Gold's task is to penetrate the DeepWeb communication system in use by terrorists and share how with the FBI.

For those who have followed Snowden leaks, NSA, read about or use TOR, and other similar technologies, it is a fun exploration of topics with relatively current news events (e.g. Boston Bombers, Silk Road Anonymous Marketplace (narcotics store)) worked into the text to give it all a ring of authenticity.  I was halfway through the book before I realized it! Of course, fiction is about as close you may want to actually get to all the scary stuff and vocabulary the novel's main character, Arnold Gold, thinks and talks about!!

Check it out when it is released later this month, October, 2014!

Update - A Note from the Publisher:

In celebration of Allen’s new book, all of his previous thrillers are currently on sale for 99 cents (e-book versions) on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which will run the whole month of October. If you don’t mind, could you add the links to those books to your review for your audience? We’d really appreciate it and it’ll help with our promotional efforts for Deadly Odds! The links to his books are attached below: ·         Dead End Deal: ;·         Dead Ringer ;·         Dead Wrong ;·         Deadly Errors ;

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Zombies Inspire @evernote @postachio #writing #edtech

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Are you a new teacher looking for writing ideas to share with your students? Or, perhaps, an experienced teacher hoping to inspire students with a twist on traditional writing approaches? Be sure to check out Literacy Today, a site curated by school district literacy specialist, Jananne Healey. Jananne writes the following:

It's not always easy inspiring your students to write.  Some students simply push back and say, "Nothing ever happens to me..."  Here are some wonderful ideas that just might spark an idea and make them excited about writing.  Writing Ideas

You can find Writing Ideas online at Literacy Today. What you may not know is how easy it is to adapt writing ideas with technology to make them a must-do activity for your students!  John Spencer (Education Rethink) is one of the sources for writing ideas that Jananne points to; here’s one of his examples:

Follow this easy 3 step guide to adapt writing ideas, and/or lessons, with technology:
Step 1 - Explore the Writing Idea or Lesson!
“Is this something worth doing?” I don’t know about you, but getting students to underline adverbs and adjectives in a piece of writing isn’t worth the time and effort…doing it on a computer or mobile device (e.g. iPad, Chromebook, smartphone) is just throwing quality time and effort after bad. When I look for writing ideas to implement, I want ideas that would sink my hooks into me as a human being who writes to learn more deeply, that allows me a deeper level of expression.

Writing Idea Connection: With the instruction manual for zombie care, I would dearly love to prime the pump with students. For example, you might read from a copy of The Proper Care and Feeding of Zombies by Mac Montadon. And, there’s a lot to cover in this list of young adult zombie fiction.

Once you’re done getting them all excited, why not dig a little deeper? (get it? dig…). Many zombie tales involve destruction at the end of the world, but zombie care involves solution-finding. In fact, several books take the perspective of what to do AFTER a zombie apocalypse has been solved and everything is back to “normal.” What to do with rehabilitated zombies? The ideas are, while not endless, certainly worth getting into the guts of.

Step 2 - Connect and Collaborate or vice versa!
As exciting as writing a journal is, once you get past the daily excitement of finding out what you’re thinking, playing with words, the first thing most writers look for is an audience. And, that audience isn’t just their teacher or mentor. As a writer, I’m thrilled at the idea that someone is going to be reading my writing. That’s why it’s important to look for ideas that make it easy to connect and collaborate with others. No part of the writing process is sacred—all of it can become an opportunity to connect and collaborate with others at a distance.

Ask yourself then, if the writing idea has potential for sharing. One of my favorite approaches to writing tales was one Clay Burell took with Thousand and One Flat World Tales. He gave it a modern twist:

Tell the aliens a good tale from earth, or face your country’s annihilation….
[Read more]

Using his blog and social media (you could use Twitter, G+, or Facebook, of course), Clay was able to solicit participating classes from around the world to capture stories from around the world. Simply, his students were able to read stories from other groups of students because they posted their work online.

These days, it’s quite easy to connect with other educators. All you really need is a Twitter account and follow fellow Language Arts/Writing teachers. You may also want to build a “virtual space” that can serve as a hub for posting content. One of my favorite tools to use is increasingly Evernote and (a blogging platform based off of Evernote). You create a free account, then use that to capture student writing.

In the old days, students would have to be granted access to a wiki, GoogleDoc, or whatever. Now, using Evernote, you can share an email address that people can send content to and add #notebookname (replacing #notebookname with the notebook in Evernote). Then, the teacher can add the “published” tag to those entries that are ready to be worked on. With an Evernote Premium account, the teacher can invite other educators to have rights to assist with publishing, or better yet, invite students to do it. As Amy Stengel (NorthEast School of the Arts (NESA) in San Antonio, Texas, USA) put it, The more I do, the less my students will. That’s why I’ve learned to turn over responsibility for the student publication completely to them! (a poor paraphrase)

Writing Idea Connection: Connecting and collaborating with other writers around the world shouldn’t be an issue. For example, what are zombies like in India? Pakistan? Italy? New Zealand? Canada? Will taking care of zombies take on a cultural difference or significance in countries where caring for family members in your home is a priority?

Note: Find out more about Postachio and Evernote for Education online

Step 3 - Media-SIZE It!
While many would argue that the primary goal of writing isn’t to publish, but rather, to think through new ideas, bring order to chaos, whether that be in fiction or non-fiction, publishing is a lot of fun. But with the Web so easy to share content on with the world, many of us need to start thinking about how to take actions with traditional activities that go beyond the classroom.

Tip: Evernote makes it easy to include audio in your “notes” that can be saved into your notebook. Those MP3 audio files are automatically shared by, and appear beautifully embedded in a blog entry. Read more

You know what I mean, I’m sure. Walk into any school, you’ll see traditional posters and handwritten pieces of paper doomed to be thrown away in a month or so, buried beneath mounds of paper bodies. You can lengthen the life of student work by publishing it online in written format, but you can also take advantage of multimedia.

Whether you are using a computer, Chromebook or iPad, you can easily publish writing and add audio to it. You can extend that activity by having students script their writing, or even, creating animation, video and making that available. Instead of just a print instruction manual, you now have a multimedia manual of awesome ideas.

Writing Idea Connection: Now that you are featuring students manual on how to take care of zombies via your online site, why not do some interviews? Students can record audio interviews—as well as connect with other students outside of class, around the world using Skype or Google Hangouts—and share those, too. Read more about how to do this with Evernote and online.

Ham it up a little and have a conversation about how tough taking care of a zombie is. Maybe, two people can play “Ain’t it Awful?” about what’s involved in zombie care (e.g. missing digits, muddy footprints on the kitchen floor, lack of bodily fluid control) and share that interview. Of course, they would have to “script that interview out” and practice “quality interview techniques.”

Lots of possible ideas for enhancing writing in the classroom with technology, but tools like Evernote and make it easy to collect student writing and then quickly share it online with a world waiting for new writers to rise up.

Twitter: @mguhlin

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

3 Steps to Sharing Meeting Docs with Your Team @evernote @postachio

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There are a variety of ways to quickly share meeting documents with your team. For example, you could take advantage of one of the following:
  • If you have access to a digital version of the handouts, you can post it in GoogleDrive or a web site.
  • You can run the documents through a copier-scanner, email those to folks (or post them online anywhere).
Another approach, if you have an Evernote and account, is to follow a workflow similar to the one below. Again, you can always adapt it to your needs, budget and available equipment.
Step 1 - Digitize the Document
In my role as a school administrator, I often end up in meetings where people hand me thick packets of paper. My first act is to take those back to the office, give them to my secretary and ask her to scan them to PDF. That PDF then ends up in Evernote. As a premium Evernote user, the Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files become searchable. This is a real benefit when trying to dig up content sent to me a year or so ago that has new relevance (e.g. personnel handbook).
My secretary was so efficient at scanning my documents, that I felt compelled to invest in a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i. There are other scanners and I would label this one as “middle of the road" in terms of cost (approximately $250). Consider the mobile USB-powered DoxieGo ($162) or Fujitsu ScanSnap ($250), or the WiFi-friendly Fujitsu ScanSnap Evernote Edition ($495). The Fujitsu ScanSnap is fabulous and I just it daily to digitize documents, essentially, going paperless…the papers go in the recycle bin.
Step 2 - Save the Digital Document to Evernote
One of the advantages of the Fujitsu, and other scanners of this type, is that they come with support to save content anywhere, whether it be to a folder on my computer or directly to Evernote as a JPG (picture/image format) or Adobe PDF file.
For example, I recently attended a local event. One of the many paper handouts available was the beautifully designed agenda. While most of the paper will end up in the trash, I wanted to keep a digital copy. So, I ran the document through the Fujitsu Scanner mentioned above and ended up with this document (notice how when you view this on the web, all you see is a tidy Download PDF link):
Step 3: Share Using
If you’re like me, you have several options for sharing documents with others. I like to find the workflow that is most efficient because once that path has been identified, I don’t have to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. Instead of clogging people’s inboxes with emailed attachments, I just auto post the digital file to Evernote and then share it for download as an Adobe PDF file.
Another way is to post these documents—provided they are not confidential—into a blog notebook in Evernote. This would allow documents, along with any notes you might have, to be available to folks with the web address to your blog.
Note that you can add a password to your blog to limit viewability.
While there are many tools available, some may find it easier to use Evernote and to quickly share meeting notes and documents with others. Give it a try!

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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