Google Announces Google Play - music, movies, books and apps

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Google Play

Google has just announced Google Play. Google Play will combine the Android Market, Google Music and the Google eBookstore. Google is describing Google Play as a "digital entertainment destination" combining apps, games, movies, music and books into one place.

All of your musics, movies, books and apps are stored online, always available on any device through Google Play. Google Play stats:
Store up to 20,000 songs for free and buy millions of new tracks
Download more than 450,000 Android apps and games
Browse the world’s largest selection of eBooks
Rent thousands of your favorite movies, including new releases and HD titles
The move starts today and the Android Market will get upgraded on Android Phones and Tablets over the next few days. Video, books and music apps will be upgraded to Google Play Movies, Google Play Books and Google Play Music apps. The music, movies, books and apps you’ve purchased will continue to be available to you through Google Play.

Google is also going to have some special prices for albums, books, video rentals and apps over the next week. 

Country info:
In the U.S., music, movies, books and Android apps are available in Google Play. In Canada and the U.K., we’ll offer movies, books and Android apps; in Australia, books and apps; and in Japan, movies and apps. Everywhere else, Google Play will be the new home for Android apps. Our long-term goal is to roll out as many different types of content as possible to people around the world, and we’ll keep adding new content to keep it fresh.

For teachers, students and schools using Google and Android, this is important information. It brings all of these different media types into one location.



Google Play: https://play.google.com/store
About Google Play: http://play.google.com/about/


(on a side note, I love the interactive logo circles on the Official Google Blog).





"How do you know how to do that? I figure it out." How I learn.

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People ask me "how do you know how to do that?" or "how did you find that?' I explore.  I'm one of those people who just likes to figure things out. Probably why I became an engineer and physics teacher.

I explore things and figure them out on my own. I read the "help" files for apps, software and web apps. I go Google searches for information and forums. I figure it out. No one shows me. I look for books, websites, magazines and read about things.

This is how I find resources. I go exploring and then I figure out how to use it or look for resources on how to use it. I tinker. I take things apart. I play with them. I try different things. I don't like to sit and be lectured, I want to explore something.

Now, this sometimes leads to issues (computer crashes, locking up apps, etc.), but I learn more than if I followed a manual or instruction book. Sometimes I even find features and uses that aren't in the books.

This is how I want my students to learn. Why? Because it sticks with them longer. When you explore and learn on your own, you tend to retain that knowledge or skill much longer.  I want them to explore and find answers and solutions on their own. I give them support and advice, but I don't give them the answer. This also teaches them how to learn on their own. They need to be able to figure things out on their own and find resources to help them.


How about you? How do you learn new things?



Related:

10 Important Skills Students need for the Future

10 Tech Skills Every Student Should Have





Microsoft Flight Simulator now Free! Great STEM Resources

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Microsoft Flight Simulator is now available for free. The free version includes tutorials, online and offline play, aircraft, missions on Hawaii. You can pay to get more aircraft, missions, scenery, and other content.

The tutorials are great and it is easy to get started.


I took pilot lessons in college (almost got license too and then instructor graduated. Will try again soon!) and Flight Simulator was a great way to practice and train.

This is a great resource to have students explore the science of flight and aircraft while having fun.

Aerodynamics, Forces and Newton's Laws, Lift, Drag/Friction, Thrust, Controls.










Teacher Evaluations - ideas and lessons from other professions

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Teacher Evaluations are a huge issue right now. How do we evaluate a teacher in the performance of their job? Some people think test scores are the answer (most educational experts disagree, for good reason). In order to answer this question, let's look at how some other industries evaluate employees. These are all jobs that I have held, or hold now.

1. Cook - I worked my way through college as a cook for two different restaurants, one independent, and one a national chain (The Chart House). Our evaluations were based on the following areas: attendance, on-time to work, attitude, skill (making the food correctly), ability to handle stress during busy times, interaction with other employees, and ability to follow directions from management.

2. Paramedic - I have been in EMS for 24 years. I have been a volunteer and a paid medic. The paid service (AMR) evaluated employees every year to decide if we would get the full raise, or only part of it. We were evaluated on attendance, on-time for work, appearance, attitude, interaction with other employees, ability to follow directions from supervisors and they also looked at any issues we had with patient's, the public, other agencies, and the hospitals. They did NOT use the outcome of our patients (similar to using test scores in evaluating teachers). If we did what we were trained to do, following protocols, and the patient still did worse, or died, we were not penalized for it. If there were any issues found with our patient care, they counseled and retrained the person. If it was a serious issue, there was an investigation into the issue. In most cases, the medic was retrained, unless grossly negligent. Rule #1 in medicine is that patients get worse and die. Rule #2 is that medical professionals can't always prevent rule #1. We do our best and follow protocol and training

3. EMS-Instructor - I have been an EMS-Instructor for 12 years and an Instructor-Trainer for 8 years. I evaluate new instructors all the time, and I also help evaluate the instructors on staff at our training center. I teach the instructor courses and evaluate students during the course. They get evaluated by their mentor instructors in real classes. The one thing we do NOT use to evaluate our instructors is the test scores of their students on the National test. No one instructor is responsible for a student's learning, just like in education. We evaluate the instructors on content knowledge, lesson activities and pedagogy, student engagement, classroom management, attitude, attendance/punctuality, and student evaluations.We do multiple assessments of new instructors and then we continually assess the effectiveness of our instructors. Our training center has high standards and we expect our instructors to live up to those standards. Instructors are counseled and assisted with any areas of need. Only those who do not improve after multiple attempts at being helped are not brought back.

4. Engineer - I was an engineer for 10 years before becoming an educator. I was a project engineer and had employees working for my team that I had to evaluate, and I was evaluated by my supervisors. We were evaluated on a variety of areas, similar to the other industries above. If our design failed or had problems, we weren't fired or chastised, we were expected to fix the problem and offered help and support to do that. We weren't held responsible for the actions or performance of the people building our design. This is how education should be.

Evaluation criteria: job knowledge and skills, quality of work, organizational skills, problem solving, communications, flexibility, teamwork, personal development. Then the employee and supervisor would have objectives for the employee to work on for the next evaluation, a Person al Action Plan for improving any areas of need, and employee feedback and input into the evaluation. Our current evaluation forms for teachers are similar.

Managers were trained in how to evaluate their team members. They had very specific tools and resources to use to do the evaluations. They saw what their team members were doing on a daily basis. Administrators need to see and observe teachers more often than many do now.

5. Educator - Our evaluations are currently based on administrator observations (1 formal and some informal). We are evaluated on content knowledge, lesson plans and objectives, pedagogy and lesson activities, assessment, and classroom management. There is a structured support plan for improvement also. The problem is that there are not enough observations done, administration is not trained on truly evaluating an educator, and student work is rarely evaluated.

I believe that we need administrators, and not the same one all the time, observing teachers more often, and we need more than just test scores, objectives on the board, etc. evaluated. More emphasis should be placed on what the students are doing in the class, how they are learning, and what they are producing. Look at the students' entire portfolio of work in a class.

I also think that administrators need more training on how to evaluate teachers. It needs to be objective for most of it, with some subjective areas. However, no one evaluation should be punitive for a teacher. Multiple administrators need to evaluate a teacher, and a teacher needs to be given support and training to improve in areas of need. Many times, teacher evaluations are too subjective, and personal issues come into play when they have no place there.

The evaluation of educators should never be based on test scores. There are too many factors that affect a student's performance on a test that has nothing to do with their teacher. Plus, no one teacher is responsible for the everything that student knows or doesn't know.

Educators should be evaluated on the following areas, and by multiple people:  content knowledge, lesson plans and objectives, pedagogy and lesson activities, student engagement, assessment, and classroom management, effective use of technology and resources, innovative lesson ideas and projects, student portfolios and student evaluations (like we have in college). The student evaluations should only be used to find and address issues, not as a punitive measure.

The main focus of the evaluations and observations should be "are the students learning?" and "how can we improve student learning more." Period.

Some new laws around the country (and proposed in CT) are changing teacher evaluations to be based on on administrators' opinion and test scores. Neither of which is effective or accurate.

The people evaluating educators need to be trained on how to do the evaluations and what to look for. Educators should be evaluated by more than one administrator and on other factors besides that administrators observations.

Educators who have and issues or areas that they are struggling in, should be trained and supported, not attacked or fired. Educators, like any other employee, who do not improve after proper training and support, can then be let go.

Some business practices can be used in Education. Lets use some of the employee evaluation tools from other areas in education. Education policies also need to be based on scientific research, data, best practices, and advice from professional educators. Politicians and the public are not educational experts. They need to listen to the experts.

Remember, our goal is always to improve the education of our students. Attacking teachers does not do that. If what we are doing does not help our students, we shouldn't be doing it.



What are your thoughts? 






Official TED App for Android now Available

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TED

TED Talks are a collection of conversations and speeches by a variety of people, on a variety of topics. These topics range from education to humor to politics to science and much more. They are very informative and educational.

The new TED App for Android allows you to stream audio and video as well as search for different TED talks and even browse by popular talks.

It is a free app and works on Android tablets and phones.

Many TED Talks are about Education so this is a great resource for educators. Other TED Talks are also useful for educators and students.


Source: Android Central


Related:

Android Smartphone and Apps I use as an educator

Android - Apps, Resources, and more for education

Android for Education Apps and Resources.

Android news, resources, app reviews and more
http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2011/11/android-resources-information-news.html

Why I use Google’s apps as an Educator
http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-i-use-googles-products-as-educator.html

Android 4 Schools - app reviews, tips and more for using Android in education
http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2011/12/android-4-schools-great-new-site-with.html

Some more great Android Apps for Education





Essential Apps and Installs for Windows, Chrome, Android

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I have a few essential apps and installs that I put on all of my computing devices, including utilities and software. It is also what I install on other people's computers when they ask me to set them up for them. All of these are free.

PC/Laptop/Netbook:
(These are the basics. With these, I can pretty much do 99% of what I need to. Much of what I do is cloud based, but sometimes you need desktop software and apps.)

AVG Antivirus -  protect your computer from viruses and spyware
CCleaner - clean out old and temporary files. Optimize registry.
DeFraggler - defrag and optimize  your hard drive
LibreOffice - free office suite - word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation, drawing
VLC Media Player - free media player. Plays pretty much every type of video and audio file.
Paint.net - free graphic editing software
Chrome Browser - access all of my cloud services (Google, Discovery Education, Evernote, Tweetdeck, etc)
Chrome Browser extensions: Clip to Evernote, Google Shortcuts - links to all Google services, Goo.gl url shortener, webpage screenshot, Aviary, cloudy calculator, publish web articles to Kindle, Docs viewer, Extended Share for Google+, TweetDeck


Chromebook:
(For me, they sync from my Chrome account)
Access all of my cloud services.
Add Extensions: (same as above)


Mobile Device (Android in my case):
In addition to included apps: (see below for links to lots of Android for education apps)
Evernote, Google Tasks, Google Shortcuts - links to all Google services, Sugarsync, Dropbox, QuickOffice, Amazon Kindle, Pandora, QR Droid, Shopper, Advanced Task Killer, Antivirus/Security, Skitch, Epocrates, Netflix, IMDB, AStro File Manager, PayPal, Angry Birds



Related:
Why do schools still pay so much for software? Free alternatives to paid software and services.

Open Education Week is this week - connect, create, share Education Resources

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This week is the first ever, Open Education Week (March 5 - 2012). The purpose is to "raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Participation in all events and use of all resources is free an open to anyone."

Educators, for the most part, share resources with each other. You can see this on blogs, Twitter and Google+ every day. We know that we are all in this together and we need to help other educators help our students.

This site and movement want that sharing to expand to all educators.


Open education is about sharing, reducing barriers and increasing access in education. It includes free and open access to platforms, tools and resources in education (such as learning materials, course materials, videos of lectures, assessment tools, research, study groups, textbooks, etc.). Open education seeks to create a world in which the desire to learn is fully met by the opportunity to do so, where everyone, everywhere is able to access affordable, educationally and culturally appropriate opportunities to gain whatever knowledge or training they desire.

The Twitter hashtag for Open Education Week is #openeducationwk
 
The site has some great resources: 
ABOUT OPEN EDUCATION page for introductory documents and videos. 
Once you have a feel for what open education is, there are many ways you can participate in Open Education Week: 
CONNECT……..Visit the DISCUSSION page often to see the continuing global conversation happening via blogs, Twitter and postings. Check out the EVENTS AND WEBINARS schedule and join in – participation is open to everyone. 
COLLECT………Find out about the diversity of open education efforts around the world. Visit thePROJECTS area and learn about open education resources and open learning opportunities available to you now. Find out what people are saying HERE. Check out the RESOURCES tab for links to even more information. 
CREATE……….The “open” in open education means that you can modify them, mix them together in new ways, add your own perspectives and share them back to the world. Find out how through some of the video PRESENTATIONS. Put your thoughts down in a tweet or blog, create a video, or post a research paper. 
SHARE…………Tell people about your discoveries via Twitter using the hashtag #openeducationwk. You will be able to see the live Twitter feed on the HOMEPAGE. Share your blog with us (find out how HERE). Let people know that there’s a world of free and open educational opportunities available to them now. Share your thoughts with us in the FEEDBACK area. 
CONNECT……….COLLECT……….CREATE……….SHARE……….

Google is also supporting the Open Educational Resources movement:
http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/2012/03/keeping-oer-mind-about-shared-resources.html



Join it. Connect, Collect, Create, and Share educational resources with other educators.





Free Academic Program (incl CAD software) from PTC

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PTC, makers of Pro-Engineer professional CAD software, MathCad, and more, has an Academic Program for Schools. This program provides Free 3D Design and Engineering software, Free Online Training, Cutting edge industry Design CompetitionsOnline Communities for collaboration and learning, and Support from their engineers and educators.

This free program is a great way to engage students in STEM skills and teach them technology skills (CAD) through the competitions and project based learning. They will also learn valuable skills for the future through these kinds of programs.

Contact them for more information: http://www.ptc.com/appserver/wcms/forms/index.jsp?&im_dbkey=121302&icg_dbkey=482


Check out FREE CAD videos, design competitions, and so much more on the PTC Academic Program Facebook Page.

I've used Pro-Engineer as an engineer. It is an excellent program and PTC provides excellent support.



About PTC
PTC is the leading technology provider in product development software. We provide Product Lifecycle Management solutions to over 27,000 companies in the Industrial, High Tech, Automotive, Aerospace and Defense, Consumer, and Medical Device industries. 
Passionate about Education
For more than ten years, our team of engineers and educators have been working with schools to enhance the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. PTC believes that the sustained success of our company, our customers, and society depends on empowering each generation to solve real world economic, social, and environmental challenges.

(Thanks to Dolores Gende, @dgende, for the tip)




Related:

STEM Resources for Educators

LibreCAD - free, 2D CAD Software for Windows, OSX, and Linux
My Top 10 Free Google Resources for Education - includes Google Sketchup 3D modeling software.

NASA 3D Resources - fun and educational - includes downloadable models to use in CAD.

10 Important Skills Students need for the Future

Technology in use in Engineering

Some More Ideas for getting students engaged in STEM subjects

Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge - great STEM opportunity

How to Turn a Teen Into an Engineer

TryEngineering - engineering simulations and info on engineering







ClassConnect - find, build, and share lessons

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ClassConnect is a new, free service that lets teachers build lessons with websites, videos, Google docs, files and more, then organize and store their lessons, and then share the lessons with students, parents, and colleagues.

It's easy to use and a great way to organize, create, and share lessons.

The really cool thing about it is that it was created by a young man, who got the idea while in high school, and instead of going to college, went out to Silicon Valley and created his own startup to create ClassConnect.

Give it a try.


ClassPager - send students quizzes and reminders

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ClassPager Logo

ClassPager is a free service that lest teachers use SMS messages to send students quizzes and reminders and receive answers and feedback from the students. It works like a clicker system, but even better.

It is easy to set up and use and there is a special code that is used so no one actually has anyone's phone numbers.

It can be used to check student understanding during a lesson, as an electronic quiz, or to even communicate with students about upcoming assignments and more.

It is free, and can even be used by non-smartphones. Standard text messaging rates apply for the students, so if that is expensive, it can be used through free texting apps (see site for more details).

Engage all your students on their own devices.

The Science of Baseball - great resource for teaching science

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It's almost Baseball Season. Spring training is in full force. This is a great opportunity to make science more relevant to your students by applying science concepts to baseball. Physics, physical science, chemistry, and biology can all be related to baseball.


Exploratorium: Science of Baseball

The Science of Baseball is a great site from Exploratorium that has articles, animations and activities that help students learn about the science of baseball, including pitches, neurobiology of the hitter, materials and construction of bats and balls and more.



Most Read Articles on Ed Tech Guy for past week

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Another week done. My physics classes have been working on their bridge projects. They did a webquest on bridge design and construction, designed their own bridge, and are now building them out of balsa wood. Then they will do a structural and stress analysis of the bridges, as well as a design review, and then we will test the strength of the bridges. Next week starts standardized testing for the 9th and 10th graders, and loss of classroom time for everyone (don't get me started on this).

Have a great weekend. Rest up, enjoy life!

My wife and I are going shooting (I have a Glock 23 .40 caliber handgun - lots of physics there!), a date night dinner, and then relax and spend time together after a busy week. (She's a high school Biology teacher)

Here are the most read posts from the past week: (and don't forget to check out the posts from Friday. They don't usually have time to get to most read status.)


1. Adobe PhotoShop Touch for iPad2 now available

2. 11 steps to planning Professional Development

3. Great collection of E-Safety/Digital Literacy Resources

4. Dabbleboard - virtual whiteboard for online collaboration

5. NASA Simulation based Aerospace Resources for Educators

6. NCLB’s Impact on Science Education - NSTA Reports

7. This Dynamic Earth - free plate tectonics lesson from USGS

8. PBS Teachers Activity Packs - free lesson resources for educators

9. College Necessities 1988 vs. 2012 (as in stuff to bring, not what is needed for success)

10. Some more great Android Apps for Education





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Dropmark - free collaborative sharing and presentation tool

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Dropmark is a free (fee based accounts available for more storage) collaborative sharing web app that allows you to also create presentations from files and from web content. File sharing is done through a simple drag-and-drop interface. It also allows you to create presentations and slideshows as well as collaborate on them with others.


You upload your files and then you can share them. You can also use the photos in a slideshow or presentation and add video and web sites. You can also add music from YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud.

Free accounts are 250 MB. 25GB costs $48 per year.




Source: Lifehacker

Related:

Popplet - online presentation, mindmapping, and bulletin board


Present me - easy way to record and share presentations




LibreCAD - free, 2D CAD Software for Windows, OSX, and Linux

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LibreCAD is a free, open source, CAD application that is available for Windows, Apple, and Linux.

LibreCAD is a 2D Computer Aided Design application that has all the features you would expect in a 2D CAD system. It is available in over 20 different languages and for Windows, Mac, and multiple Linux distributions.

It is easy to use, with an intuitive menu and user interface.

This is a great resource for students and teachers to use. Some of my students used it to design their bridges for our bridge project.



Related/Similar:


My Top 10 Free Google Resources for Education - includes Google Sketchup 3D modeling software.

NASA 3D Resources - fun and educational - includes downloadable models to use in CAD.





Sometimes, we need to be forced to relax

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xkcd is a comic that is very funny (sometimes a little racy) that I like to read. The topics range from relationships, to politics, to human nature, to technology and more.

The latest one is great.


I think it's very poignant in today's world that we need a reason or be force to stop, take a break, relax, and enjoy life. We tend to get caught up in work and our lives and don't experience life. Teachers are guilty of this too. Between the actual school hours, grading, lesson planning, professional development, social media on education topics, and fighting for what's right for education, we sometimes forget to just stop and enjoy life. 

So, to all educators out there, I'm giving you "Erro: 41". It's Friday. Leave work behind for a while this weekend and go enjoy friends, family, nature, and life. Refresh and replenish yourself. 

Happy Friday everyone!







Vernier announces LabQuest2 - Android, iPhone, iPad data collection and analysis

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Vernier, the company that makes those really cool data collection probes and sensors and analyzing software, has just announced LabQuest 2 software. As part of their new Connected Science System, LabQuest 2 provides tools for mobile devices such as Android, iPhone and iPad, to collect, analyze, save and share sensor data. The system also allows remote viewing and controlling of LabQuest with a computer and the ability to email data and graphs for later analysis.

This is another example of leveraging the mobile devices that are already in students' hands for educational uses.


LabQuest 2 with iPads iPhones and tablets
They also have two new devices: a Polarimeter (Chemical) and Projectile Launcher.

Vernier products are in use in science classrooms (and some math) to collect, analyze and interpret data from experiments and activities. Their products are similar to what is used in industry, so students learn content and theory and how to use digital tools. 

Teaching Science with Technology - Looking for a dynamic way to teach science? Vernier puts easy-to-use data loggers, sensors, experiments and graphing/analysis software into the hands of students, helping educators develop the next generation of scientists and engineers.

They allow students to spend more time learning the concepts and theory and also allow for better visualization and analysis of data.


Vernier also has resources to help find grants and funding for these products and I've gotten many through DonorsChoose.

Vernier also runs free workshops around the country where they show you how to use their products. You can also get package deals that include manuals and products.


Related:

Vernier Data Collection Sensors and Tools

10 Things Students use technology for in my class (including Vernier)

TI announces the TI-Nspire CX, it's first color-display, handheld graphing calculator - works with Vernier.







Shutterfly looking to buy Kodak Gallery

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I just wrote about Kodak Gallery (online photo service that allows you to upload, share, and view your photos from anywhere) and now it looks like they are going to be bought out by Shutterfly. Kodak Gallery had just announced their mobile apps too.

Shutterfly is an online photo service and social sharing network that allows unlimited images at no cost and at full resolution. Photo Books are their flagship product, which allows people to create photo books with covers, templates and designs.

The sale is not final, so we'll see what happens.


On a side note, Kodak Gallery is accessible from school, Shutterfly is blocked as a "shopping site." Thank goodness for 3G on my Chromebook so I could check out Shutterfly.


Snapanda - take picture of word, get definition

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I just learned about Snapanda from David Kapuler's blog, Technology Tidbits: Thoughts of a Cyber Hero, which is a great resource!

Snapanda is a new app for Android (iPhone version coming soon) that lets you get the definition of any written English word through your smartphone camera. The app uses OCR technology to read the word and then gives you the definition.

This is a great app for students, especially English Language Learners, to support them in learning English. Not knowing the definition of a word can lead to misunderstandings and frustration.

SnaPanda



Related:

Android Smartphone and Apps I use as an educator

Android - Apps, Resources, and more for education

Android for Education Apps and Resources.

Android news, resources, app reviews and more
http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2011/11/android-resources-information-news.html

Why I use Google’s apps as an Educator
http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-i-use-googles-products-as-educator.html

Android 4 Schools - app reviews, tips and more for using Android in education
http://educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com/2011/12/android-4-schools-great-new-site-with.html

Some more great Android Apps for Education










Educational Issues in Connecticut - what a mess!

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So, Connecticut is having some major issues regarding education and “education reform.” Notice I put quotes around education reform. This is because the politicians so-called reform plans have absolutely nothing to do with improving education for our students. In fact, most of their ideas and plans will only benefit them and private corporations.

One of the first issues, is in Bridgeport, the state’s largest populated city, and it’s Board of Education. The fully story can be read here: 

http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Timeline-Bridgeport-school-board-saga-3367920.php and here
http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/What-does-the-Supreme-Court-decision-mean-3368422.php
but the short version is that the old, elected board was having issues, voted to disband, and the State came in and took over, appointing a new board. There were legal issues with this and the Supreme Court just ruled that the takeover is not valid.

It turns out the state violated the law, as the courts pointed out. It violated state law. They need to follow the law, not work around it. Isn’t that what we are trying to teach our students?
A great quote from a student sums it all up:
"I think the takeover was good. If something is not working, you need to fix it and get a handle on it before it totally gets out of control. But if anything is going to be done, it needs to be done the right way," said Kendra, 18, a student school board representative. "There are laws in place. If there is a procedure, you have to go by that."
Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Students-mixed-on-Supreme-Court-decision-3371290.php#ixzz1nsWqsefa

Politics, not the students, were the focus of all of this. The politicians would talk about helping our students, but it was all political. The mayor was quoted as saying “Need to remove politics from education” but he brought more politics to education with this move.

Some members of the appointed board seemed like good people with good intentions, but there were some concerns mentioned in the papers and by some citizens. The new superintendent, Paul Vallas, seems to be doing a good job though.

There other issue in Connecticut is Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” (Senate Bill 24) which is NOT good for education. It lowers standards for educators, gives too much power to the State, changes teacher certification and pay, completely changes/eliminates tenure, changes teacher evaluations to subjective and lowers pay, expands role of private corporations in education, changes funding, uses unproven and unfinished ideas, and does nothing to help our students. Districts would have to pay money to charter schools, depleting their already measly budgets, yet charter schools can still exclude students and are not held to same standards. Educators would not be required to get advanced degrees and professional development requirements would be lowered. Educators due process rights will be severely weakened, and the state and superintendents would have increased power, with less oversight and balance of power. Superintendents wouldn’t even have to be certified educators! Education funding would also be competitive, hurting many districts in need. 



The educational initiatives are unproven and unfinished and do nothing to help students learn.
Tenure and due process would be changed and eliminated for new teachers. Poor evaluations by an administrator and a teacher would get a lower salary and could even lose their certification!! Imagine if an teacher and an administrator don’t get along or have a conflict. The principal holds teachers entire careers, in their hands, with little or no recourse for teachers.



There is absolutely nothing in the bill, which is contradictory and against other statutes, that will HELP OUR STUDENTS!!! The new bill would force many excellent teachers out of teaching. And, with the new evaluation and pay system, and lack of due process, good teachers will not want to work in the struggling districts and those students will face even more issues and troubles. Who wants to work somewhere when you can lose your job, and certification, so easily?



Politicians are getting too involved in education. They are proposing ideas that will hurt education and not listening to the professionals who actually know how to help our students. Teachers care about their students. They work hard for their students and are met with resistance and attacks from everywhere. We need to support teachers, not attack them.

Rreal school improvement comes from strong collaboration with school leaders, teachers, parents and others. Reform should be a collaborative discussion and decision-making process.


Remember, the priority is OUR STUDENTS! Don’t attack or weaken teachers and education, work with teachers (the professionals) and help us, help our students!





Here is a fact sheet on the Governor’s bill:



Here are some articles about these types of issues:


Analysis of Governor's Ed Reform Bill


Can’t Blame Tenure for Failing Schools


How to Demoralize Teachers


What Teacher Tenure Is — And What It’s Not


Students Learn Better with Engaged Parents


Targeting Teachers Isn't Going To Improve Schools


Reasonable doubt on teacher evaluation




What do you think?


















Two Free Graphic creation and editing software

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There are two free programs that I think are great for editing and creating graphics.



The first is paint.net. This software was originally created as a school project and is now continually being modified and improved. It is a great tool for editing photos and graphics. I found it to be very polished and powerful. There are tutorials, a user forum, and a great help section available also. I use this for editing graphics for school projects and for this blog. 



Tuxpaint is a great drawing program, especially for the lower grades. It is easy to use and has a lot of built in functions.

I use paint.net to edit photos and graphics that I then use in my classroom. I've used Tux Paint to create some simple graphics for my lessons.


CK-12 - free e-textbooks and more - updates and news

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CK12 is a great resource for students and teachers. Their flexbook site contains tons of online textbooks, all free, for teachers to use. You can also create your own flexbook on the site, combining parts of other textbooks from their site, or using materials of your own. Books are available in PDF, Kindle, iPad, NOOK and other formats. 


In February, they reached 1,000,000 books downloaded, showing how popular open, e-textbooks are becoming. 

They also have content: US History Sourcebook - basic, available in ePub format (readable on iOS, Android and NOOK.

The FlexBooks system will be getting updated to version 2.0 soon, which will "combine student-centric learning with teacher-centric tools and materials to create a dynamic system." Invitation only beta testing will be starting this month. New titles that will be released soon include:

CK-12 Algebra II w/Trig (the first five chapters)
CK-12 Middle School Math - Grade 6, Teacher's Edition, Teaching Tips
CK-12 Middle School Math - Grade 6, Teacher's Edition, Common Errors
CK-12 Middle School Math - Grade 6, Teacher's Edition, Differentiated Instruction
CK-12 Physical Science For Middle School
In addition to the Flexbooks digital textbooks, CK-12 offers free SAT prep and an interactive Algbra curriculum.

This is a great resource for all educators and students. To use e-textbooks, students have to have access to technology, which costs money. Free and open e-textbooks are a great way to save money. 




Related:

What I use with Physics classes instead of textbook

Resources to Replace Textbooks

eTextbooks, Textbooks, iPads - what are the costs?

Apple Announces iBooks2 E-Textbooks - my initial thoughts

PBS Teachers Activity Packs - free lesson resources for educators

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PBS Teachers has some great activity packs for teachers to use with their classes.

They have packs in arts, health and fitness, reading and language arts, science and technology, and social studies.

The activity packs have PBS resources, such as videos of PBS shows like NOVA, web links, and lesson plans for each topic. There are activities for different grade levels also.

These packs are great ways to have a multimedia, project based lesson for your class.





nextSTEP magazine and site - for life after high school

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nextSTEP magazine is a great resource for high school students. The magazine itself is not free, although many schools get bulk subscriptions. Their website, http://www.nextstepmagazine.com, does have a lot of free resources for students.

Their tagline is "your life, after high school" and the magazine and web site have advice and information on careers, college planning and more. College search, college planning steps, career descriptions, articles on college life, careers, how to be successful in college, and much more are all on the site.

Our school has a bulk subscription, so the students can pick up a copy in the counselors' offices. Many of the students prefer to just go to the web site. The site has more detailed information than the magazine, along with videos and links to other resources. The site does has all of the articles from the print magazine.

This is a must have resource for high school students.