Is Google EDU at Your Child’s School?

Many schools are joining the Google Apps in Education program.

The free program, Google EDU, entitles a school to a small, out of the Google mainstream space where students and faculty can work on teaching and learning activities. After joining googleEDUGoogle EDU a school owns all of its content, and the data from an  institution’s work and searches are not collected by Google. Thus an extra layer of privacy exists for users.

While the entire suite of Google web-based tools is available for school communities to use, an educational institution can limit some of the access for children in younger grade levels. For instance, it’s possible to begin with word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet programs and turn off most of the other applications. The school’s administrator can also turn on additional Google options for students and teachers when a reason arises or organize the community into groups with different access privileges.

If a school likes its e-mail program, it’s not necessary to turn on Gmail at all, though many Google EDU participants are now using Gmail because, they believe, it is more secure and has an exceptional spam filter.

GoogleshareFrom my teacher’s vantage point, the best features of Google EDU apps are the automatic saving, the easy web access, and the multiple opportunities for collaboration.

Google saves as a person writes, so even if the power goes off and everything shuts down, a student has his or her work saved (a big deal for students who move around a lot during the school day).  Moreover, because a student’s work is on the web, it is easy to access from various locations, computers, and devices.

Collaboration is a breeze. By using the share feature students can ensure that a teacher has the access to read and comment.  Likewise, a student can share with others who might be working together on a project by granting rights that allow another individual to view, comment, or edit.

Word Order When You Search — It Matters!

The word order of a search matters in today’s connected world, so 21st Century learners — of all ages — should understand how search results change when a user rearranges the words. A short video on word order, uploaded by Google’s Search Anthropologist Daniel Russell – check out his Search-Research blog – teaches this lesson effectively.

Use this less-than-two-minute video, recently featured in a blog post at Free Technology for Teachers, as a quick and succinct teaching tool with students, parents, and other educators.

 

 

Why Wikipedia? Parents Ask

“Why use Wikipedia?” adults often ask. What they are really asking is, “Should my kids use Wikipedia, and is it a real reference?” For adults who grew up in the age of multiple volumes of well-documented encyclopedic information — of course, you remember those well-used, bookmarked, or even dog-eared pages — it’s hard to wrap our minds around Wikipedia. It’s even harder to understand just how we should use it as a reference.

Twenty-first Century learners, however, consult Wikipedia all the time, and the number of users and the content is increasing. According to a 2006 review in School Library Journal, “The popular online encyclopedia, whose entries are written and edited by any user, may inspire trepidation, even fear, yet the behemoth is impossible to ignore.” So just who is writing for Wikipedia? A March 2010 MSNBC article Who Writes Wikipedia, describes a research project that aimed to develop profiles of writers who contribute content.

Question: So, how does any user — student or adult — cite Wikipedia?

Answer: Give credit just as it’s given for any other reference.

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Introduction to Digital Footprints Via Google Dashboard

dashboard footprintSo many of our daily activities leave multiple digital footprints, little records of our work and whereabouts. At a time when privacy is taken less seriously and more and more people make copies of what we do and say — whether friends or in some official capacity — digital footprints multiply quickly.

Phones, utilities, credit card purchases, cars, movie downloads, online purchases, and all of our social networking activities leave little bits of code — each recording some aspect of our activities. Many of these digital footprints are fairly obvious parts of daily life, easily accessible to us. Others, however, come from our association with people and web locations  — site registrations, tagged digital photos, and comments we leave here and there. Sometimes we don’t even think much about signing up for a site —  we just log in and then rarely use it again. We create a slew of less obvious digital and supposedly confidential footprints via our medical and bank records,and social security — in theory more private.

Check out this digital dossier video from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

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Wordfoto: Great Fun With Photos and Word Lists

wordfotosunflowers-2

I combined a field of sunflowers with a word list.

I have a new favorite app — Wordfoto. Interestingly, it’s designed for an iPhone and does not yet have a separate iPad version. A GDS student told me about it.

With Wordfoto I create a word list, and then I have some fun turning the words into art by selecting a picture as a background to highlight my words. I can use an image that comes with the app, choose one of the many pictures in my iPhone photo galleries, or take a new picture. It’s even possible to use screen shots. If an image is too cluttered with details, it may not make a good Wordfoto.

When I combine the picture and the word list — voilà! — a cool Wordfoto. Like Instagram, the app comes with a variety of editing options, allowing users to play with the image, crop it, create styles, and fine tune the texture of the pictures. Wordfoto also comes with preset styles that introduce texture, color, and depth variations, making it easy for new users to get started.

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