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Search!As the new school year is upon us and I find myself not in a school for the first time since I started Preschool so many years ago, I was thinking about what I would be doing if I was starting this school year teaching a class of 4th graders (still my favorite grade). There would be all the usual ice breaker activities that teachers use to start building community in their classrooms and then soon enough the lessons would begin.

I would take the first week to try and build some skills and expectations that we would be using all year long. I believe one of the most valuable skills I can teach my students is the skill of search.

It doesn’t matter what the content is, what unit we would be in, or what other standards we needed to meet before the year’s end. What matters most is a foundation in search. I would teach search skills the first week and then build upon them week after week. This, I feel, would put my students in a place that not only would they be able to start learning for themselves but they would be building a life skill that is critical from now until we get chips planted in our brains that can read our thoughts and search for us (which I think would be really cool).

So in honor of all you teachers out there that are starting another school year, I thought I would create search lesson plans for you to use within the first month of school. Over the next four days I’ll be releasing a lesson plan a day here on my blog that you will be able to download in PDF form or make a copy of in a Google Doc to edit and tweak to your liking. I will create a lesson plan tailored for K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. They will be pretty generic in form in hopes that you will be able to adapt it to your school, classroom, or situation.

All that I ask in return is that you let me know via a comment, an e-mail or your own reflective blog posts how the lesson went, what adaptations you made to it, and if you changed it. I would ask that you share that lesson plan somewhere on the web for others to use as well. All the lesson plans will be released under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.

Google Doc Format

K – 2 Lesson Plan

3 – 5 Lesson Plan

6-8 Lesson Plan

9-12 Lesson Plan

 

PDF Format

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SearchGoogle resently announce a free course they are offering in mid-July. I have signed up for it as I still believe search is the most important skill any of us can learn and teach our students. The course is taught by one of Google’s top search engineers and will be held in the format of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). If you are looking for something to do in mid-July join me, and I have a feeling thousands of others, in learning some new tips and tricks about searching the web using Google. 

Course Details

Power Searching with Google is a free online, community-based course showcasing search techniques and how to use them to solve real, everyday problems.

It features:

  • Six 50-minute classes.
  • Interactive activities to practice new skills.
  • Opportunities to connect with others using Google Groups, Google+, and Hangouts on Air.
  • Upon passing the post-course assessment, a printable Certificate of Completion will be emailed to you.
macair
By Robert S. Donovan

Today my new MacBook Air arrived putting the final touch on my new digital life here in Seattle. It’s always fun to set up a new computer and new digital gadgets. I haven’t owned my own computer in four years using my school issued laptop as my sole machine. So it’s great to get my hands on this new 13 inch MacBook Air and start to customize it. I went back and looked at the software that I started with in 2008 when I got my first Mac computer. Crazy to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. 

So here’s my list of must have software…or is that browser ware?

First Four Downloads:

Chrome – Default Browser

Chrome Canary – Allows you to sign into muptiple accounts. I use this for all my other gmail accounts 

Firefox – Now my backup browser

Opera – Second Backup browser

App Downloads:

1Password: Love this to keep all my passwords safe and synced between all my devices using dropbox

Dropbox: Because I live in the cloud

Google Drive: See above

Pages: Needed to open a document

Chrome Browser Extensions:

TweetDeck: Social Network Client

Bitly URL Shortener: To share things on Twitter and Bookmark them direclty to Diigo

Google+ Page Share: Allows me to share things on my Google+ Profile and Pages

Diigo: My bookmarks

Scribefire: Blog Post Editor that works inside Chrome, can’t blog without it. 

Feedly: RSS Feed Newpaper

Prismatic: RSS Feed Newspaper – new and trying out

 

Crazy to think that Pages is the only application I’ve downloaded that isn’t Internet based. Guess you know where I’m spending my time. I know I’ll download more but I’ve been working now for 7 hours and this is all I’ve used.

 

Samsung Galaxy S III

I also purchased a new cell phone for coming back to the States. I bought my wife the HTC One X and I bought the Galaxy S III. I love both of these phones and my wife already knew how the HTC worked so liked sticking to that brand. We bought International unlocked versions (some habits are hard to break) and both phones work on the AT&T Network here in the States. But after talking with Tim Lauer I decided to try Straight Talk and there $45 Unlimited Talk, Text, Data plan…as I still hate contracts. So far I have been very happy with the service and love how Android works perfect with Google Voice.

 

Internet

I decided to go with CondoInternet which services our condo building it was either that or Comcast. But CondoInternet offered 100MBps download and upload for $60 per month and that was just to much speed to resist….especially coming from Bangkok where I paid for 20MBps and if I got 2MBps I was happy.

 

So…I’m getting all setup here in my new State-Side life and just thought I’d share how the tech side of things are coming. 

 

 

googlelife
 

 

This morning I woke up at 4:30am to call my bank back in America to do a wire transfer for our Winter Trip to Tanzania (Hiking Kilimanjaro, a Safari, and Zanzabar…yeah….we’re stoked!). I decided to use Google Talk via my Gmail account as I have become increasingly frustrated with the quality of Skype calls and I notice the other day my Google Voice account is now accessible here in Thailand. When I called my bank I let them know I was calling from Thailand, the bank assistant on the other end couldn’t get over how clear the call was. “Are you really in Bangkok, cause this is clearer than most calls I get locally.” There was no delay, no feedback….it was a crystal clear fantastic call.

Then at 7:30am this morning I had a Google Video Chat with some students in a Plymouth State University class (the same class I use to teach online and is now taught by one of the students I had in the program Kim Tufts). Again perfect audio and perfect video.

As I reflect I find that Google is slowly taking over most of my online life. There are already over 1000 people following me on Google+…by far the fastest professional network I’ve grown (more on Google+ changing my network later). 

Is this a good thing? I hear people say all the time “I don’t like trusting one company with all my information”. But don’t we do this often?

Most of us only have one bank….we trust them with all our financial information.

Most of us only have one doctor….we turst them with all our medical records.

Most of us have a credit card….we trust them with our credit history.

I choose Google because it works and I trust them.

Am I a Google fan boy? Yes….I’ll admit it…I love their products and there overall approach to innovation. They excel at “Failing Forward” and they’re willing to fail in the name of progress and innovation…..and that excites me.

Here’s a recap of my Google Life:

3 Active Google Apps Accounts: Personal, COETAIL, School

Professional Network: Google+

Voice over IP: Google Voice

Video Chat: Google Hangout/Gmail Chat

Phone: Android HTC Incredible S

Do I trust Google with all my information? 

Just as much as I trust Apple iTunes with my music, books, and podcasts and Amazon with my online purchase history. 

At the end of the day you have to trust someone….and to be honest I trust all of these companies more than I trust the hard drive in this computer, or the driver in the car next to me as I write this.

Until they fail me they’ve earned my trust.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by Alain Bachellier

A blog post I wrote to High School Students.

wordinacan

As I’ve been helping students get going with their gmail accounts and blogs over the past couple of weeks I’ve been joking about the “old school” e-mail systems that some of you still use. Hotmail, Yahoo…and seriously….AOL…come on…..

But there is another old school tool that I think has seen its best days behind it. Microsoft Word….oh how we loved you back in the day when you were really the only word processing program we needed. But times are changing and it’s time to move on to new and better tools.

Google Docs is a very powerful alternative to Word. Here are 10 reasons to consider using Google Docs the next time you need to do some writing.

1. No more corrupt files

Nothing worse than staying up all night to finish an assignment only to quickly drag it to your flash drive and turn up at school with a file that won’t open on a teacher’s computer. With Google Docs access to your file is only a click away and you never have to worry about your file their corrupt.

2. No more corrupt USB Keys

Of course if your file is not corrupt then it’s your USB Key that fails you when you need it most. Using Google Docs as an online storage locker means never having to worry about a corrupt or even lost USB key again. Simple download the documents you need when you get to school. With 1GB of space you can store a weeks worth of work easily.

3. .doc .docx who cares!

Nothing worse than having a file you can’t open or giving someone a file they can’t open. With Google Docs simply share the link to your file on the Internet. If they have a web browser and an internet connect they can view the document.

4. Work Collaboratively

By far the best feature of Google Docs. Work collaboratively with others in your class. Missing a day because of IASAS? No problem! Have a friend take notes in Google Docs during class and simply share the notes with you. Just don’t forget to return the favor.

5. Share and Share a Like

Simply create documents to share with team members, club members, or anyone else you need to. No more worrying about the latest versions of the document or how many times you’ve revised. Allowing everyone to work on the same document at the same time can increase productivity and save you time.

Google Docs

6. Export to PDF or Word no problem

Still need to hand in the Word or PDF version? Not a problem File – Download As allows you to download Google Docs in a variety of formates.

7. Make it Public

Proud of a piece of work that you want to put on your blog or share with the world? With a couple simple clicks turn any document or presentation into a viewable web page. If you can click you can publish.

8. Work from any computer with Internet access

Never worry about leaving your USB or computer at home again. Any computer, or mobile device for that matter can access your files. From an iPad to a Blackberry it might not be the best view in the world but you can still see your documents.

9. Work on the Go

If you have the Chrome browser installed (and if you don’t you should) install these apps to allow you to work on the go. Turn your bus time into work time.

10. Because it’s the future

We’re headed into a fully web-based world. Even Microsoft is working to make Word fully online in a few years…see I told you they were old school. Get a jump on the future and get use to working on the web now so you’re not playing catch up later.

Those are my 10 reasons….what would you add to the list?

As we move to Google Apps for Education at my school I gave a quick 10 minute talk at a staff meeting on 5 Gmail Tips for Teachers. Here they are:

1. Archive is Your Friend

Archive Getting use to archiving everything is a change. Google wants you, begs you, to archive your e-mails so you can search for them later. No need to keep hundreds…even thousands of e-mails in your inbox. Archive and search later.

2. Learn to Search in Gmail

Search GmailAfter archive, next you need to learn the search syntax of Gmail. Understanding how to search through your archived mail is a must if you’re going to keep thousands of messages. Good search syntax to know:

in: (i.e. in:sent dennis will find you all the e-mails you have sent to someone named dennis)
has: (i.e. has:attachment will find you all the e-mails with an attachment) from: (i.e. from:jeff will find you all the e-mails from jeff)
to: (i.e. to:john will find you all the e-mails to john) label: (i.e. label:Google Docs will search for the word ‘docs’ in your google label)
subject: (i.e. subject:dinner will find all e-mails where the word ‘dinner’ is in the subject line)

3. Use Priority Inbox

 We get so many e-mails during the day that using Gmail’s new Priority Inbox can help search out the conversations that are current and e-mails from people you communicate with most often. The other advice I give teachers is to star the e-mails that need a response by the end of the day….and before you leave school archive everything in the “everything else” area. You can always search it later and you’re not going to go back and read them tomorrow as there will be new e-mails waiting for you.

 

4. Use Chat

ChatGchat that can be found in your Gmail sidebar is a great added feature that I’ve been waiting to hit schools for years. A lot of businesses already use some sort of chat client for quick responses and gchat does just that. Use it to communicate with friends at school, with your department, or with students. Have a running dialog throughout the day and get those conversation based e-mails out of your inbox and into a chat format. Gmail also archives all the chats and if you happen to miss when someone chats you it will send you an e-mail with what they said so you never miss the information. Oh….video chat is great too if you are lazy and don’t want to walk to talk to someone else face to face. 🙂

5. Canned Responses

 Canned responses are a must for teachers! Turn on this feature in labs and use it to create canned responses to parents or to students. It can also be used to create multiple signatures that you can quickly add to message. So now you can have a e-mail signature for parents, students and co-workers.

Here’s a PDF of how to get Canned Responses working

What tips would you add to the list for teachers?

Appointment Slots new to GcalA great feature popped up in my Google Apps for Educaiton GCal the other day. I was putting in some meetings and noticed an “Appointment Slots” link in the event window.

Not sure how long it’s been out (please somebody tell me it hasn’t been years), but it’s turning out to be a fantastic tool for education.

Basically you can “slot out” chunks of time on your calendar to allow others to make appintments with you on your calendar. Once you active Appintment Slots you get a special URL that only shows the slots in your calendar you want to allow people to make an appintment with you.

Appointment Slot URL

 

 

 

I’ve already used it when teachers have e-mailed me asking for a time to meet. Instead of 3 or 4 e-mails back and forth to find a common time, I just send them the link to my Appointmnet Slots and they choose a slot that works for them. Saving us both time and e-mails. Update: Today I added it to my signature so it’s always in front of teachers when I e-mail them.

I could see this being using for elementary conference times. Teacher’s could share their appointment slots with parents and parents could just sign up in a slot that fits their time. No more slips of paper, no more juggling schudules. Simple and straight forward. 

Set the appointment lengthWhen creating your time slots you can adjust the chucks of time you want your appiointments to be. I break my slots up into 30 minute meeting times. If a teacher wants to meet for longer than 30 minutes they just fill out two appintments back to back. 

I’m sure there are a million other uses for this new feature in the classroom and schools at large. What ideas do you have?