Should schools manage student devices?

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That sure sounds like a loaded question so let me give you so more details to help you decide one way or another. I’m talking about a BYOD program where students are bringing their own mobile phones and tablets to school. So the question I am posing is should schools have direct access to those devices at all times and have the ability to manage them even when they are not on campus?

That is what some South Korean schools are doing according to an article on The Verge. Some schools (eleven according to the article) are using this system called iSmartKeeper so it is not huge initiative yet. Anyway, here are its capabilities:

• Block apps at certain times

• Only allow calls (no SMS) at certain times

• Only allow emergency calls at certain times

• Schedule when some apps can be accessed

The system only works with Android phones (no iPhone, Windows Phone or BlackBerrys) and I am assuming is controlled by a central control panel somewhere (probably cloud based).

I know a lot of people that would find this system very appealing – I mean who wouldn’t. You can turn off everyone’s Facebook access with a click of the mouse, or disable all their games with another click. That way you are ensuring that they are more focused, less distracted, even at home. Heck, I bet parents would like that. It sounds great on paper – taking a device and then turning it into a powerful learning tool during certain hours and then letting the user have use it as their personal smart phone on others.

OK, by now I am sure you can hear the skepticism in my tone. This is a huge waste of money and time. Here are the problems.

One, it won’t work as advertised. This is a huge system and huge systems have bugs – no two ways around it. Those bugs will invariably leave students with messed up settings, apps completely locked out or worse – reducing their expensive smart phone down to nothing. It also seems like it takes a lot of time not just to set up but to monitor which is probably another staff member. Honestly, I’d rather hire an integration specialist as opposed to a person who just monitors and manages this system.

Then there starts the game of cat and mouse. We’ve all seen it or heard about it. A school blocks Facebook and then students find ways around it. Then the school fixes that hole and students find another. It sounds like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Now an Android phone gives you lots of choices. You can root your phone or get to the core and find ways around various security systems. It is a smörgåsbord of choices and options.

Then there is the obvious limitation that it only works with Android phones. So students with other platforms are free to do whatever causing inequality within the school itself. If you’re an administrator reading this, a concerned parent or teacher please don’t go down this alley. Instead ask other questions that question instead of finding a system to avoid such questions. Here are some good questions to ask:

• Is a mobile device a good learning tool for your school.

• How do we educate our staff on new classroom management techniques to deal with these new devices?

• How can such a device be leveraged to enhance education?

• How to handle students on non educational apps?

 

I think you get the picture.

Edmodo: A guide to explain it all

It is no secret that I really like Edmodo. Over the past few years I’ve created and updated a guide to help teachers get started. It was a modest product at start with only 9 pages. However as Edmodo grew, became better and added more features I had to continually expand my guide. Now it stands at more than 50 pages and all the guides have been viewed more than 60,000 times – thanks everyone! So here is the latest and greatest. Feel free to embed it, download it, copy and distribute to your hearts content. If you have issues feel free to email me at: patrickcauley@gmail.com

The Big Bang – AWESOMENESS!

Kurzgesagt has a great YouTube channel full of fun animations that take quite complex concepts and puts it in language that people like you and I can understand. It is just pure awesomeness people and you can watch it here. This time they are out to explain about the big bang theory. It does get into quarks and the such but still appropriate for some middle school students and beyond. Remember people we are all made of star stuff. Pretty darn cool huh?

The problem’s not the app . . .

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The other day my wife showed me this article on CNN. It was about a particular app called Yik Yak. You can read all about it from there website here or read about the Android app here. The basic premise is that Yik Yak uses your location, and lets you post whatever you want anonymously and the people around you can see those posts and then everyone vote them up and down. If a post gets voted down enough it disappears. The app is free and available on iOS and Android. The article on CNN talks about how students are using this app to bully and bash people online. Since there is no account/sign up there is no way to track down who said what. This type of article usually brings about such questions as . . .

  • WHAT WILL WE DO?
  • HOW CAN WE STOP STUDENTS FROM USING THE APP?
  • SHOULD WE BAN DEVICES?
  • HOW CAN WE BLOCK THIS WEBSITE/APP?
  • IS IT THE END OF DAYS?

OK, that last one is a bit of an exaggeration but it all boils down to the same thing – fear. This is not new nor is it an original idea/article. Let me show you some examples.

I have seen this article before with Facebook.

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I saw it before with Twitter.

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I’ve also seen it written about FormSpring.

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I’ve seen it written about SnapChat too.

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Let me tell you people, the problem here isn’t Yik Yak. The problem is how our students are treating each other. It is the actions of the individual or groups of students that need to change, not Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak or any other app or website.

Think about a time when there were no apps, no smartphone, and no widespread wifi. Even without these tools bullying was around and schools were battling it. It is true, these apps can make it easier for students to bully but let’s put it in perspective. The app didn’t teach this behavior or condone the student’s action. The app didn’t tell them how to do it. The app developers weren’t wringing their hands together evilly and hoping to bring about the end to the modern world. So how is banning the app or putting it under a microscope going to stop bullying? The short answer is it won’t. At best it will drive it underground for a bit and then it’ll come back-maybe in the form of a different that app but the bullying will continue.

I’m not saying changing a person’s behavior or getting a child to see and understand the harmful effects of bullying is easy because it’s obviously not. If it were, bullying wouldn’t be a problem and we would have taken care of years ago. However, attacking the app and banning it isn’t the long term solution. I would even say that it is a poor solution. Start by education yourself. Here are some very good websites to get started:

There are plenty more out there – just search for them.

Then get your counselors involved – they are the real experts here and ignore those fear mongers at CNN and other websites that tell you to beware of certain apps. Don’t be afraid of technology, embrace it, learn about it and then teach our students the appropriate ways to use it or at the very least know how to walk away from something that isn’t healthy for them and how to seek out help if they need it. This method will yield better results than just banning and talking about an app.

Google Sites – Let’s get started

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No, no, no this is not the review you’re looking for. That is coming soon. This is just a resource I’ve thrown together for a Google Site workshop I have coming up. I thought I’d give you guys a sneak peek. It’s nothing flashy, but it will get you started with creating your first Google Site. I won’t get into the good/bad conversation but I will give you two great features that make Google Site worth while for schools who use Google Apps for Education.

  1. You can have multiple collaborators working on one site. This means one site per subject/grade level which will help bring more synergy and horizontal alignment.
  2. You can copy the site. Meaning if you leave your school, you can take a copy of that site with you to your new position – very helpful.

So without much more fan fare, check out the guide below. If you want a PDF copy of the guide click HERE!

Google Sites – Getting started

What is Google Sites?

What is Google Sites?

Google Sites is a service freely offered by Google that allows anyone to easily create and share a website. It has many features such as:

  • Adding images
  • Adding video
  • Powerful customization tools
  • Google Drive integration
  • Collaborative features
  • Easy to use tools

Step 1 – Creating your site

To get started make sure you are using and logged into Chrome.

Then go to http://sites.google.com

From here click the Create button.

Step 1 - Creating your site

A new window will appear. From here you can do many things:

  • Select a template – You can chose from Google’s own or others people have submitted.
  • Name your site – This will also affect the URL or web address of the site
  • Select a theme – What you want your stie to look like

The good news here is that all of these choices can be changed later on, so feel free to experiment and play around with whatever you want.

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Step 2 – Let’s edit

Once that is all done, it will take you to your site. It will look pretty bare but that’s OK.

To start editing click on the Pencil icon in the top right hand corner of your browser.

Step 2 - Let

When you do, the editor will load which is just a toolbar full of formatting options.

Most of these options are pretty straightforward such as font size, color, justification, etc.

So go nuts here and add all the content you want.

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Step 3 – Inserting media

Click on Insert in the top menu will give you a large amount of options. Here you can insert Images, Links to other websites, YouTube videos and more.

Your choices are broken into three categories. Common and Google are pretty straight forward. Gadgets on the other hand give you lots of interesting features such as games, RSS feeds and more

Step 3 - Inserting media

There are well over a hundred gadgets to chose from. They are

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When you add a gadget this is how it will look while you are editing the page.

When you are done editing or want to see what you’ve done click on the Save button in the top right hand corner of your browser.

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Here is what it looks like on the website

*NOTE: DUE TO THE EVER CHANGING NATURE OF THE INTERNET SOME GADGETS MAY NOT WORK WITH NEWER BROWSERS*

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Step 4 – Layout

By default your page has one giant column but you can change that here.

Step 4 - Layout

Step 5 – Add a new page

Chances are you will need to add more than one page.

To do this make sure you are not editing any pages.

Then click on the New Page icon in the top right hand corner of your web browser.

Step 5 - Add a new page

A new window will appear that will allow you to name your page.

Leave everything else alone and click Create.

Don’t worry about adding it to the navigation bar, this will happen automatically.

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Step 6 – Sharing your site

Again, make sure you are not editing any pages.

Click on the Share button in the top right hand corner of the screen.

Step 6 - Sharing your site

Sharing and Permissions – blah blah

A familiar window will appear.

Type the person’s Google Apps for Education email address in this box and click Send.

Sharing and Permissions - blah blah

*NOTE: ONLY ONE PERSON CAN EDIT A PAGE AT A TIME*

Step 7 – Make it public

By default, your website will be private which means only you (or anyone you’ve shared it with) can view it.

To change this come back to the Share page and click on Change…

Step 7 - Make it public

Sharing and Permissions – blah blah

Sharing and Permissions - blah blah

CONGRATULATIONS!