Psychologically sound PowerPoints

PowerPoint® presentations can be a challenge to put together. It can be even more difficult teaching someone else how to do a presentation well. There are literally thousands sites offering to show you how to make beautiful and effective slides. Unfortunately, none of that advice is backed by evidence.

A new study was published in July 17th of this year that finally provides evidence based recommendations for making an excellent presentation. The goal was to look at PowerPoint design in light of good brain science. To properly conduct the study, a list of best practices was drawn up and written as negatives. Instead of saying “speak clearly”, for example the study listed “mumbled” as one way a presentation could fail. I was tempted to copy and paste their “List of rules for each principal” (Table 1) and then translate back into a list of best practices, but even with proper citation, I thought it would be too close to plagiarism for my comfort.

There really isn’t anything surprising in that list. In fact, most of us follow these without without thinking about it. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most relevant or interesting:

1) Remember that your goal is to convey a message, not to be as creative as possible. Use standard fonts, bullets and terminology. Also use colors conventionally (red indicates a warning for example).
2) Keep your audience in mind. Your words should have all the connotations the audience expects them to have.
3) Use graphs properly:

a) Graphs should be used for making comparisons.
b) Line graphs show trends.
c) Bar graphs show differences between specific values.
*If the labels are very long, a bar graph should be horizontal, not vertical.
d) Pie graphs show proportional differences.
e) Label your graphs and mark any axes clearly.
4) Keep pointless creativity out of your slides. If you’re presenting on the Olympics, don’t throw in pictures of kitties just because you think they’re cute.
5) Don’t use deep blue for fonts or to underline.
6) Keep red and blue from touching.
7) Only animate something if it helps convey your message.
8) Use decent sound and pictures. Grainy pics and low-fidelity sound is a bad idea.
9) Sudden changes in visuals or sound should only be used when you’re changing topics or to signal the end of your presentation.
10) Have an obvious end for the show.
11) Reveal bullet points one at a time.
12) Use 4 or less items per slide: (4 items in a list, 4 graphical units, etc.)
13) Your audience should be able to read every slide in under a minute.
14) Use grid lines on your tables.
15) If you’re going to use color to indicate numerical value, that’s fine. Never use hue, saturation or tone, though.
16) Be clear about what your presentation is actually about.
17) Explain complex graphics during your presentation.
18) If a slide element is important, make it prominent. If something is prominent, make sure it’s important to your presentation.
19) Center your illustrations.
20) Use warm colors to define the foreground.
21) If you’re providing geographical information (directions, locations, etc...) a map is usually necessary.

Like I said, there should be nothing shocking in this list. Still, it’s interesting to see best practices as defined by psychologists.


Effects of Internet Search on Learning Things

(Originally posted here.)

Google and Memory
Research and Design by: Online Colleges Site

Edit Docs Offline

Originally Posted by Google: 24 Jul 2012 07:56 PM PDT
Scheduled Google Docs Update for July 31st

By the beginning of the school year, you'll be able to edit your Google docs without an internet connection. All you'll need is the latest version of Chrome and the Google Drive app from the Chrome store.

Another nice feature is the ability to preserve previous versions of documents. As you may or may not know, Google deletes any revisions older than 30 days or when there are more than 100 previous versions of the same document. By August, you'll be able to indicate that you want certain versions saved. This could be useful when curriculum mapping.


Google Power Search class, A-

Google has just launched a class on using Google search to it's full potential. Titled "Power Searching with Google", the promise is to make you a Google search guru. I have thus far gone through the first two classes and am fairly pleased with what I see. They've decided to go with the traditional classroom format of lecture-activity-repeat. In addition to the video lectures, they also provide text versions and slides containing the same information.

While Google could have done a better job with lesson delivery, the content is great. Every student body is going to be mixed and I think they've done a great job of providing beginner and more advanced search techniques in the classes. Daniel Russell, the lecturer, is clear, understandable, and easy to listen to.  Overall, I'd have to give the class an A-. I'm interested in hearing what you all think!


Summer improvements

Source: Plik:Wikinews collaboration logo.svg

Finally, summer vacation is in full swing around the country. Well, as far as I know no one is still waiting to begin break. That word "break" is a bit of a misnomer for many of us in education since summer is really a time for us to reflect on learning outcomes and use the data to alter instruction for the coming year.

A great way to work collaboratively on data interpretation is by using Google Spreadsheets. Collaboration is an important part of data interpretation since it requires us to infer what has worked and what needs to change. Software, algorithms and spreadsheet formulas are great for doing math, but they'll never give us the explanations or guidance we need improve outcomes. No, that takes human intervention. With Google Spreadsheets, you can upload any Excel document that contains assessment data. Once it's uploaded, change the privacy settings to Anyone who has the link can edit. Email that link to your colleagues and you can all start sorting through the information together. There is no need to have a Google account, they just need the link you've provided. 

If your colleagues do have a Google account, then you have an even better opportunity to work with the data- Google plus. While continuing to collaborate on the Spreadsheet, up to 10 people can video chat about the information through Hangouts. Essentially, you'll be having a virtual PLC which saves everyone time and gas money.

This summer, don't just work solo. Get together with others in your department over a Google Spreadsheet and come up with some great ideas. You'll be sure to see great results in the coming year. And, hey... you'll also have something to brag about to administrators.


DIY LMS or get one pre-made?

I've been wondering about Learning Management Systems (LMS's). How exactly is learning management different from teaching? Yes, I know all of the discussion about online content storage, assessment creation and data tracking. All of that really just begs the question, though. After all, in a typical teaching situation, there is a person who serves as a repository of information (supplemented by a textbook) who gives out assignments and keeps track of how students are performing. An LMS is really just a way to do all of this digitally. 

Since an LMS is a digital "teacher", can't we as teachers just make our own LMS? And are formal LMS's performing any better than ad-hoc systems? I've read quite a bit on both sides of the argument. So far, I'm not wowed by the pre-fab products. A well designed system can provide students with the essential items. First, they'll need review materials (videos, presentations, text) to understand an idea. Next, is a way to work with the material socially or alone so that learners understand ideas rather than memorize facts or phrases. This is typically done by assigning some sort of assignment. Finally, the system also has to have some way to assess students and share that assessment data with the students in a secure and sensible way. Usually, this is in the form of a gradebook. 

I've put these ad-hoc LMS's together using Google tools and a bit of hard work and they've performed pretty well. The biggest challenge (besides creating the actual learning material) was to decide how to organize everything so students could easily find what they wanted to quickly and easily. However, since all LMS's have a very similar design, it wasn't terribly difficult to get it to work about as well as Moodle or Blackboard. The most important thing I did was to keep the system consistent with what I did in the classroom. I think if a teacher does that, any LMS is as good as the next. 


Gmail and ESL

Update: Gmail now available in Latin American Spanish
Originally posted by Chris Yang, Product Manager, Translator Toolkit

It has taken Google a surprisingly long time to provide translation services for Latin American Spanish (LAS) emailers. As teachers, we have been working with LAS communities for years and communication between English speaking teachers and non-English speaking parents can be tricky. Now that we can translate our emails into LAS, parent-teacher communication just got easier.

Google hopes that by making Gmail available in many languages, more people will be able to share their culture and knowledge with others worldwide. Spanish is spoken by more than 300 million people in the Americas and the Caribbean. The Latin American Spanish version of Gmail is designed to be a closer match to the expectations of Spanish speakers in the Americas. You can select Latin American Spanish as your default language in Settings:


Google Passes the "LMS" test

Craig Weiss has a great post on what makes for a great LMS. His intention was to write about trends in the LMS market but what it really turned into a great list of recommendations. Based on what he has written, I’d like to address some of the ways in which a combination of Google Apps along with Openclass outperforms other Learning Management System (LMS) options.

Mobile Learning-

OK, so Google doesn’t do a great job with this, either. The best I can say is that you can access Openclass on smartphone browsers. You can also access Google docs on mobile devices.

Texting/ SMS-
Openclass itself doesn’t support texting. However, Gmail Chat does. You do have to go through a few steps to get this going, but once it’s in place, a teacher can easily send a text to any and all of his or her students.

File Repositories-
Google Drive (a re-branding of Google Docs) is just the kind of file storage that any learning management system needs. It allows any user to store, share and collaborate on any number of files. Even better, Google provides a large number of tools to track exactly who does what to which file.

Social Learning-
Google Plus is an option here (not a great one, though). Of course, it cannot be used for high schools since one must be 18 or older to use the service. Nor is it for companies who need to keep private information private. It helps that the Google Apps administrator has access to all Google Plus data, since users will be careful about what they post. However, if learners are willing to engage with one another on this platform, great things can happen. Since an infinite number of “circles” can be created, learners can maintain focus on specific topics they are trying to learn about. For example, if you’re learning about architecture, you certainly don’t want all those biology discussions cluttering your desktop. There is also a fantastic video chat feature to use if you need a face to face discussion.

Parent Portal-
Unfortunately, there is no obvious way for parents to access student data.

Integrate with an SIS (student information system)-
Google Apps for education has made this pretty straight forward. Granted, you’re going to need someone who’s tech savy enough to set up Google Directory Sync with your local LDAP server.

Navigation and UI-
For Google Apps, this is kind of a tricky issue to address. If there is a lot of effort put into website design or heavy customization of the Openclass LMS, then navigation can be fantastic. However, if you are a teacher who lacks the time and skills necessary to really do this kind of design, then you’re left with something that works, but isn’t particularly user friendly.  

All in all, Google apps, along with Openclass, makes for a great LMS. There are some items that require a bit of technical know how but overall, it looks like Google has put together a suite of products that address the digital needs of learners and instructors alike.


Advantages of Google for teachers

For schools, Google holds a number of advantages over other online programs. I'd like to focus on one aspect in particular. Google's products all play well together. Examples are listed below.

Docs and Blogger- Blogger is a pretty good blogging platform. I can get all of the basic functionality that I expect including the ability to change fonts, add images and link to other websites. It’s a pretty limited word processor, though. Notice that I’m able to adjust the left margin of the lower portion of this paragraph. Blogger doesn’t allow me to do that, so I go over to Google Docs to write and edit my work. Then I simply cut and paste. Since these are both Google products, the formatting is perfectly preserved.

Docs and Calendar- Google Calendar is a wonderful product which allows you to easily record and share events online. One of the great features of Calendar is that you can attach any file stored in your Docs to an event. This integration makes the entire process of lesson planning effortless. Plans are easy to produce since they are laid out visually. Students can see the events you allow them to see and be able to access attached study guides. Teachers can collaborate on planning and restrict the public from accessing any sensitive events or files. Click here to read more.

Gmail, Chat, Google plus and Docs- Google’s email platform is top of the line. Space is almost unlimited (I have over 15,000 emails and only use 29% of my allotted space) and its search ability is unmatched. It also works beautifully with Google’s other social products. For schools with Google apps, this means that you’d be able to send instant messages to colleagues and administration to ask for assistance or to verify a student’s excuse for coming in late. In addition, you have the option of storing any and all email attachments in your Docs account. You can even adjust Gmail’s search preferences so that it will look through your Docs as well as your emails.

Openclass and everything else- Openclass is a learning management system (LMS) produced by Google and Pearson. The platform is very similar to products like Blackboard and Moodle. Accounts are free and since it is all online, there are not upkeep costs. One of the big advantages here, however, is the single log-in. After logging in once, students have access to Gmail, Docs, Calendar and Youtube as well as being able to access any online course material.

I know that there are dozens of great online products for schools to choose from. Some of these products are better for certain faculty than Google. However, given all of the great ways Google’s products work together, it makes sense to look closely before going with something else.


Education implications: Google updates

Google has yet again updated the Google Apps platform to give administrators more control. That's great news for schools using Google Apps for Education.

You can now grant access to student contact information to school nurses, secretaries or anyone else who may need to see or edit contact information but don't need access to calendars, docs or anything else. These staff members will need to have a Google Apps email account under your School's domain name before they can see those contacts.

Contact information related to non-students can be excluded from this list in order to protect privacy. The admin simply reassigns non-students to a folder other than "My Contacts". These names can be put into a category like "Teachers" or something similar.

Once the Google Apps administrator sets up Contacts delegation, an email is sent to the other person with the following instructions:

  1. Go to Google Contacts.
  2. In the left navigation, click the Delegated Contacts group.
  3. Under Delegated Contacts, view the names of users who have delegated their contacts to you.
  4. Click on the user’s name to enter their My Contacts group with full edit access.

The information I am displaying below is a modified version of the original message emailed by Google.

Link to Google Apps update alerts

Posted: 26 Apr 2012 11:44 AM PDT

Contacts delegation allows a Google apps administrator to delegate full access to the contacts in their “My Contacts” group without granting access to email or anything else.

Contacts delegation can only be granted to users within your Google Apps domain. 
You may delegate your contacts to no more than 25 other users at the same time. 
Delegation allows the sharing of the entire “My Contacts” list only. You cannot delegate a subset of your “My Contacts” or delegate contacts not in your “My Contacts.” 

How to access what's new:
- Navigate to www.google.com/contacts
- The "More" menu now has a "Manage delegation settings" option

For more information:

Get these product update alerts by email


Google calendars

Google calendars is a great way to manage events. It makes sharing and editing as easy as making a few clicks. In some instances, you may need to actually transfer calendar information from one account to another. For instance, I may be closing an old account, but still want to save the event information stored there. This guide describes how to do such a transfer.



Content knowledge and digital literacy

wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons Almeida_Júnior_-_Moça_com_Livro.jp

While at supper with friends, someone asked me to look over some medical claims they found online. A quick glance at the material revealed it to be a fraud. The article mentioned softening the patient's cell walls. Humans don't have cell walls, just membranes. Had my friend known this basic biological fact, she could have rejected the information out of hand.  She’s not alone, though. People tend to trust the first few Google hits rather than reading what is there and judging accordingly.

The fact that we can learn anything, anywhere and at any time we please has convinced quite a few people that content knowledge is a silly goal to pursue. The idea is that since mobile devices and the internet gives us unfettered access to information, there should be no reason to "waste" time teaching students any basic content knowledge.  Such opinions are dangerously mistaken. After all, electronics run out of power, loose connection and (gasp) get lost. More importantly, students will be exposed to large amounts of questionable material online. Without the internal resources to double check validity, anyone can be led to believe scams which could be costly indeed.

The trick is to use triangulation. This is a process of using three sources to figure out the accuracy of information. When researching online, the three sources are as follows:

  1. You- Consider how comfortable you feel about the article or claim. Does it feel right? If there are warning bells going off in your head, pay attention.
  2. The Internet
  3. A trusted expert- This could be a teacher, doctor or encyclopedia. It could also be your background education. The important thing is to look to an outside authority. Which agrees more with the authority... you or the internet?

Teachers of course have limited time. We struggle to strike a balance between teaching content knowledge and thinking skills. The triangulation method is a great way to find some of that balance. Not only will students have a great critical thinking tool, but they’ll also have additional motivation to learn content. When students ask “Why do we have to know this?” you can always tell them that it will help them avoid being ripped off by liars and idiots.


Twitter, teaching and what is learned

Twitter is a funny animal. Many school districts block its use due to the serious risks that it poses. However, if your district is willing to give it a try, Twitter is really worth using. There are important skills students can learn from using Twitter in the classroom. I got most of these ideas from Matt Levinson's excellent post on ways in which parents can teach kids about the internet.   

  1. Digital media is social. Students really need to understand that they are interacting with others every time they get online. It’s also vital for them to deeply believe the phrase “If you don’t want it on the internet, don’t put it on the internet”. That is, everything that goes online, even for an hour or two, will likely stay online for years to come.
  2. Appropriate language and sharing apply to the online world. Most students know when and how to speak in public. They don’t reveal personal information and they try not to look foolish by using incorrect english.  The same must apply online.
  3. The internet is a PUBLIC space. When you are using Twitter with your students, there are no private notes. The whole world can see what they write including principals, other teachers and yes, perfect strangers. But this is true of the internet as a whole. The sooner students internalize this fact the better.
  4. Mistakes are great learning opportunities. Everyone will see when a student makes a mistake. They’ll also see when YOU make a mistake. This is a great opportunity to explain how mistakes lead to better learning.  

Some teachers won’t want to use class time to teach digital citizenship and that’s fine. Even if you really just want the students to learn the course content, there are good reasons to start using Twitter. For one, you’ll increase engagement. Twitter is easy to use and students get almost instant recognition for what they have to say. You’ll also have a chance to use social learning in the classroom. For a great list of ideas on how to use Twitter to teach a variety of topics check out this post.

Once you’ve decided that this platform works well for you and your class, you can start getting a bit more sophisticated with the technology. First, you could add a custom background to your page, personalizing it for your class. You can regularly update it based on the unit you’re studying. If you’d like you can even add unit goals and objectives which often look great to administrators. Don’t forget about your profile, either. With 160 characters, you can provide a solid course description or list some simple classroom rules. Finally, try to get parents involved. Let them know what students are saying (or failing to say) online. Remember that this is a public space and you’re letting students use their public voice. The more you can involve parents in this process, the more your students will get out of it.

Now, those of you out there already using Twitter on a regular basis may want to correct me on some of my claims or ideas. Some of you still think that Twitter (and other social media) is so inherently dangerous that it should be kept out of students hands all together. Please leave a comment.


Language Arts and the Internet

There are specific differences between traditional language arts and the reading/ writing that is done for the internet. Since the amount and variety of online materials is exploding, it's important to understand some of those differences.

1) Hyperlinks

This is perhaps the most significant difference between online and offline writing. In simplest terms, a hyperlink is something you can click on in order to bring you somewhere else. It could be a word, a paragraph, a picture or even just an area on a web page. It can bring you to a different part of the page or another website. A hyperlink can also tell your computer to start downloading a file or program. (Be careful with this!)
For students to use hyperlinked writing, they have to understand the broader idea of interconnection. Writing inherently contains words and phrases that refer to other ideas and other writing. Hyperlinks are a way to make those connections explicit. It is similar to the process of citation, but is more interactive and doesn’t interfere with the flow of reading.

2) Copy, Paste ( C,  
V on Mac or Control-C, Control-V on PC)
Copying is as old as writing itself. However, until the advent of the copy/paste function in word processors, it has never been so effortless. Students don’t have to read everything they copy anymore. The intellectual theft doesn’t even result in the student looking at the material and (hopefully) absorbing some of it on accident. Worse yet, it confounds plagiarism issues. I’ve heard many students honestly state they believe they can just change a few words in a copied sentence and not worry about citations. These are dangers that need to be discussed carefully with students. Simply saying “don’t copy” is about as effective as saying “don’t cheat”.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Copy/paste is an important part of the editing process. Students just need guidance in using this important tool.

3) Embedding
Illustrations are common in writing. A simple, thoughtful sketch can help to illustrate a subtle idea. Online, these illustrations can be still pictures, videos or audio segments. This can be a complex process since it involves copyright, design principles and technical skills to pull off. The skills are valuable, though and worth teaching.

4) Social
While privacy and reputation issues are vitally important, I want to focus on how social networks affect the writing process. In most cases, these sites involve writing small, sensible and frequent notes. These mediums can help students understand the concept and importance of summary. Since there isn’t much room, students have write what is most important and leave the rest behind. This can serve as a good tie-in to quality note taking.

5) Mobile
Smartphones and tablets are changing the way a lot of the world works. That includes the way we write. Please don’t dismiss them as portable personal entertainment. These are powerful business tools and will become increasingly important to your students. (Check out the new app Snapguide.) One important issue is the small size of the screen. While text can be resized pretty easily, be careful with the pictures and diagrams.

Smartphones are not only used to consume content but to create it. Are your students able to put together a meaningful, coherent and professional message on a smartphone? Good writing is hard to produce using just your thumb especially for students who are used to using cryptic text shorthand. Professionals text important information to one another. Students need to learn how text well.

While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, I trust that it has provided you with a starting point. I would love to hear of other ways that writing online differs from its offline corollary.


Navel gazing. Compliments of Google

Gulliver's Travels was one of the finest pieces of literary work. Not only was it  fantastically creative, it told us profound things about the world. Many parts of that book still apply to situations we have today, although perhaps in surprising ways. Take the Laputians for example. These were brilliant people that were so wrapped up in their own thoughts that they required servants to remind them to speak or to listen.  I find this fascinating since this means that the servant now decides what his master will be exposed to. The servant choses when something is "interesting" or "worth while".

Our online lives resemble those of the Laputians. We too have servants who decide when information is important or relavent to us. They come in the vise of personal ads and personalized search. Don't get me wrong- personalization can be great. After all, if you type in "china" wouldn't it be great if the search engine knew whether you were talking about dishes or a country? Consider the all the advertisement we see as well. I'd rather see ads for stuff I like rather than junk I really don't care about. The problem comes when we are filtered from seeing discenting ideas. Our minds become small and we learn less.

The internet is a sea of information. Much of it agrees with our preconceived notions but just as much is challenging and therefor illuminating. Confirmation bias (our knack for cherry picking facts to fit our beliefs) is hard enough to deal with as it is. If these digital servants are filtering out uncomfortable bits of information, my bias grows worse.

To get around the filters and broaden your search results, you may want to try one or more of the following suggestions.

1) Delete your account.

You could go ahead and start a fresh digital life. Get rid of Facebook, Google and Pinterest. Start brand new accounts or go without those services all together. Extreme, but it’ll work. Mostly. Google still may be filtering based on the machine you use.
2) Use the library.
a) Get onto the public machines. Like I said, Google may filter results based on the particular computer you use. Since so many more people use these machines, chances are higher your results will be far more “natural”.
b) Don’t sign in to Google. They know it’s you and what you look at. They even read your emails. Well... not exactly. The algorithm looks for common phrases and keywords. Still, Google will use what it knows about you to serve up "relevant" content.
3) Toss your cookies.
Make sure you regularly go in and delete cookies. Keep in mind that you’ll have to sign back in to your websites if the cookies are gone. So be careful.
4) Use a different browser
Most computers have at least two browsers on them. Find the one you normally don’t use and wipe it clean. Delete the history and the cookies, clear the cache, remove all the Autofill information, and remove all the website data. Go whole hog. Then use that browser to do your searching.
5) Go incognito
Most browsers allow you to open an “incognito window”. This means that the browser won’t remember anything about the website you just visited. No history is stored, no cookies remain. The websites may remember you, but as far as your computer is concerned, it never happened.  Google also (supposedly) ignores these windows.
6) Set your location to “United States”
Unfortunately, Google is always going to give you local results. To get around this (kind of), you can set your location to a country. I use “United States” to get the broadest results possible.

So, remember the Laputians? They were all caught up in their own thoughts; seeing and hearing the pieces of the world their servants found relevant. Jonathan Swift makes them out to be fools in the end. Lets do what we can to make sure that Google doesn’t make fools of us.


Space for learning

One of the great things about word processors is the ability to manipulate documents in any way you see fit. Whichever program you use, you should be aware of the importance of blank space. Emptiness is not the same thing as "nothing". If you're purposeful about the way you use emptiness, it will work to promote learning in your students. Here are several ways blank space can help your students in the learning process.

1) Chunking information-
Emptiness takes up real estate which means less information can fit on a single page. You’ll be forced to put only the most important items there.  A handout ought to contain all the relevant material for a lesson and leave out all the fluff. This way, students can focus more easily on what matters.

2) Focus-
Blank space will guide students’ eyes to the right spot. Too many items on a sheet of paper confuses the reader. Grouping pictures and text boxes to one side not only makes your handout visually appealing, but also provides space for students to write in.

3) Note space-
As I just mentioned, kids need a place to write down important information. As you know, actively engaging with a handout is going to lead to greater understanding and retention than passively reading it. Emptiness also provides the space to jot down clarifications and questions they may have.

4) Interest-
Beauty isn’t your first aim. However, if something is more appealing, it becomes more interesting which in turn makes material more memorable. That in turn improves learning. Consider using white space to add asymmetry, depth and perspective to your materials.

The old adage that “less is more” still holds true. Try to include a bit more white space in your handouts and see what the results are. Please let me know if you see any improvements!


Take note...

Tablets are taking the academic world by storm. They're light, compact and extremely multifunctional. They also do things differently than a laptop. One of the really interesting areas tablets are being used is as a notebook.

There are dozens of note-taking apps out there, each with it's particular pluses and minuses. I'm just going to touch on a few that I find particularly interesting.

1) PDF editors- iAnnotate PDF, PDF Notes, PDFpen, PDF Expert

These are apps which allow you to take notes on what you read. My professors would always tell me that in order to learn from a textbook, you really have to interact with it by underlining and writing in the margins. That's exactly what these apps allow you to do. By providing digital highlighters, pens and sticky notes, textbooks can be marked up in endless ways. Latter, the annotations can just as easily be erased.

2) Typing, sharing notes- Google docs, Microsoft Office Live, Evernote, Notability
These are all great options for typing and saving notes in class. The first three are actually just designed to save and share text. Notability really stands out though. At ten bucks, it gives you a lot more functionality like syncing your notes to audio recordings. This can be a lifesaver if you’re are in a fast-paced lecture. It also lets you draw in your notes- another great feature.

3) Document scanners- Camscanner, Photo to PDF, DocScanner
Having the ability to turn a picture into a PDF can come in quite handy. On the fly, you can turn any document into a PDF which you can then mark up or email to someone. Keep in mind that these would be best used in a pinch. Scanners and copy machines like Riso do a much better job of scanning your important papers.  

Like so much of what we've seen so far, tablets are providing students with options they've never had before. These are just a few of the ways tablets can (but just as often do not) outshine laptops. Please let me know if I've missed something important here. I'd love to get your feedback.


Digital disease

People get sick by doing one of the following things:
1) A lot of interaction with the public.
2) Poor hygiene.
3) Taking in (eating or drinking) something that's infected.
4) Doing things they frankly shouldn't be doing in the first place.

Computers get viruses, worms and trojans for the same reasons.  
1) A lot of interaction with the public.
Social networking is great. And a lot of people friend, follow or add people to their circles that they don’t know in real life. That can be just fine. You should be aware of the risks, though. The more strangers you network with, the more likely it is (intentional or not) that they could send something harmful your way.

2) Poor hygiene.
No need to wash your laptop. Instead, clean it out with a good piece of antivirus software. Norton is popular but there are many others including Sophos and Vipre. If you don’t have these installed and running, you’re just asking for trouble.

3) Taking in something that's infected.
Computers take in programs when you click on something. Whether you’re installing a program that you’ve purchased yourself or you’ve opened an infected email, clicking is the way to get things into your computer. Here’s the thing.; if something looks “wrong” don’t click it. Here are a few examples of things that look “wrong”:
1) Personal emails from strangers.
2) Emails from people you know, but who never send you those kinds of things.
3) Hyperlinks with misspelled werds.
4) Emails from your bank that don’t contain your name.

4) Doing things they frankly shouldn't be doing in the first place.
Elicit or adult websites are poplar. Some accounts say that 25% of all traffic online is for inappropriate material. There are a lot of things wrong with these sites, but one that may surprise people is the amount of malware that comes with the package. Nothing is for free. Either you’ll be exposed to ads or the site will charge you money. In the case of improper webpages, the cost is often an infection by a worm or virus.

So stay safe out there. Keep yourselves and your computers healthy!


Teachers, stay safe.

There has been an awful lot posted online about how to keep students safe on the Internet. However, I haven't run into very much focusing on teacher safety. Perhaps we tend to think that, as adults we're savvy enough to avoid online blunders. I thought that about myself until I started doing some research. The following list is by no means comprehensive, but it's a pretty good starting point. Please keep these tips in mind whenever getting on the Internet.

1) People lie.

Ya, I know this one is pretty obvious. Be honest, though. Have you ever forgotten a key piece of information for your class and needed to look it up really quickly? The shape of a molecule? An important date? The difference between affect and effect? Be especially careful when you’re in a rush!

2) Plagiarism sets a bad example.*

Forget about the legal ramifications of plagiarism. OK … just for a second forget about it. Have you ever gone online looking for a picture to use for your PowerPoint? Ever cite your sources? Have you ever copy and pasted quiz questions you’ve found online without telling your students where you got them? Your students will find out. (Mine did.)

3) If you don’t want it on the Internet, don’t put it on the Internet.
I have no idea who first said this, but it’s brilliant. Here’s the big point: Everything you put online for someone else to see can stay there forever. In spite of “privacy settings” there are hundreds of ways to transfer what you have online to some other computer. Even if you delete it, there’s no way of getting rid of it. Think twice before mentioning your school or colleagues.

4) Set your filter to “safe”.
Its true that you’ll be missing out on some good things if you do this. However, you’ll be saving yourself from all of the problems that surround pulling up an inappropriate website. If a student is exposed to a single inappropriate image, you are setting yourself up for uncomfortable discussions.

5) Students don’t have privacy on school computers.
This is a bit of a strange issue. Many students get offended by a teacher looking over their shoulder to see what they’re up to. Many educators seem to buy into this attitude thinking that students should allowed to work largely unsupervised. When students know they’ll be monitored, they tend to stay on task.

So what do you think? Did I miss anything? Do you disagree with anything I’ve written here?

*Thanks to Deb Ng inspiring much of this blog post.