Making Conferences Work for You

Conferences have proven to be an enduring approach to professional learning. Given the one time approach to professional learning, it is important that each participant plan for success when attending a conference. It can be easy to become distracted or overwhelmed at a big conference. Before going to a conference, stop and set an intention for your experience.

Conferences are a great opportunity for informal learning. Take the chance to speak to people between and during sessions to expand your knowledge of what’s happening in education beyond your experience.

Conferences, especially large ones, provide exposure to new technology. Before going to a conference, make a list of the tools/resources that you are dissatisfied with or problems that you have not found a solution for. Visit vendors and demos to find out resources that may meet your needs. Also take the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools that you are curious about or have never encountered before to build your knowledge base. If you’re going to ISTE 2017, check out this guide.

Attend sessions that are connected to your professional development plan. Look at the agenda to decide what value the conference offers you, and whether to attend. It’s okay to sit out a session; this could be a valuable opportunity to process a previous session and make a plan for integrating your new learning into your context. Spend some time looking at the schedule and select sessions that tie into your goals and plans, and that will help you achieve them. Have a focus.

Meet people from your virtual learning network. I’m a big fan of virtual connections but have to remember the importance of connections in the physical work. It adds a new dimension to the connections that you’ve built online when you can meet people in the physical world.

Present something that you’re excited or passionate about. Presenting lets you add the social element to learning which provides motivation and engagement. It also lets you cater to different personality types and learning preferences.

Take time to debrief. Share resources with those who may be interested, write some blog posts to expand and share your thinking, follow up with admin to clarify some goals, and implement some processes related to your own professional growth.

If you have a growth mindset, you can create your own learning experiences in a conference, or reframe the experiences provided to meet your goals and the needs of your role.

What strategies do you apply to grow from participation in conferences? I’d love to know what excites you about them.

 

This post is reformatted and expanded from the original.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay, CC0

15 Resources for Free Summer PD for Teachers

By the time summer comes around, most teachers are ready for the break. It’s important to take time to rest and rejuvenate, whether that means spending time alone or with friends and family. For many teachers, summer is also a time for professional learning, and personal growth. I’ve spent time each summer engaged in learning, whether by attending conferences, taking online courses, completing work for a graduate degree, exploring and playing with my many bookmarks and saved links, participating in educational twitter chats, etc. Some summers, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on courses. This summer, I’m staying in Prague and minimizing my expenses. I’d like to share with you some of the free resources that I am exploring for professional/personal development this summer.

  1. Explore online resources for teaching and learning. Some suggestions are The Current by Educator Innovator, and The Teaching Channel.
  2. Explore the available resources on the ISTE Conference page, by session. The conference takes place June 25 – 28. Even if you can’t be at the conference, participate in ISTE Unplugged Live (I’m presenting on using Google Tools for Organization). Also, you could follow the #ISTE17 and #NotatISTE hashtags for free resources motivated by the ISTE conference. Also join the NotatISTE Google + community
  3. Participate in a MOOC from the Friday Institute
  4. Learn something new on AtomicLearning for 90 days with code NOTATISTE
  5. Take a course on Coursera
    1. Get Organized: How to be a Together Teacher
  6. Learn Computer Science Fundamentals from Code.org
  7. Complete a Google certification or Digital Citizenship and Safety course
  8. Complete a Computational Thinking course
  9. Become an Apple Teacher
  10. Join and participate in the Facebook community for Apple Teachers
  11. Participate in the Microsoft Innovative Educator Program
  12. Take an Intel Teach Elements Course
  13. Take a self paced course from the Library of Congress
  14. Take the Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning Course created by Exploratorium
  15. Attend Edmodocon on August 1, 2017 to learn how Edmodo can be used in your classroom

Are you taking any other free courses this summer? Please share in the comments.

 

Feature image source: World Education Letters Learning, CC0

App Spotlight: Padlet

padlet logo

Overview

Padlet is a digital canvas where you can create, create, and collaborate. It’s one of the most popular tools with my colleagues, and I’ve used it for years, since its previous incarnation as Wallwisher. It’s a freemium product, with a version for schools called Padlet Backpack.

Using Padlet

To use Padlet, it’s best to create an account. You can sign up with a username/password combo, or by connecting your Facebook or Google account. This gives you a personal profile, which includes a public feed of your padlets, as well as any biographical information that you’ve added to your account. If you don’t create an account, make sure you save the links for any padlets that you create, and to finish editing their settings within 24 hours.

When you create a new template, you can select one of five formats, or convert between formats:

  • Wall which uses a “brick-like layout”, when order doesn’t matter
  • Canvas which lets you arrange content and create connectors within them, for trees, mind-maps, flowcharts, brainstorming, etc.
  • Steam for a vertical organization of content, to make lists, reports, blog posts, etc.
  • Grid for rows of content, useful for storyboards, noticeboards, etc.
  • Shelf for columns of content, each independently scrollable, e.g. compass point activity, introductory padlet.

You can create a padlet from scratch, using a template, or by modifying an existing padlet which allows copy, and you can decided whether or not others can remake your work as a template. There are a variety of wallpapers to choose from. Themes are also available in the premium version. For each padlet, you can set a custom link address.

template choices

Template choices

 

There are options for visibility: Public, Secret, Password-Protected, Private or Organization Wide (premium feature). You also decide permissions for users: read-only, write, moderate, admin. Posts can show up instantly, or you can turn on moderation. You can manage posts by other users, and edit, transfer, copy, or delete them. Also, at any point, anyone can export a Padlet as a pdf, csv, image or Excel file. They can also share it on social media, or embed it elsewhere on the web.

post to padletPadlet lets you add posts to the board, using links, photos, video, documents, music, voice recordings, and other file types. You may also be able to comment on other posts, depending on the settings of the padlet.

Padlet has integrated search, which lets you find your own padlets, or to search for padlets on specific topics.

Padlet Backpack

I haven’t used the premium product, but according to the Padlet website, it offers the following features:

  • user management and access control
  • more privacy
  • extra security
  • branding
  • school-wide activity monitoring
  • bigger file uploads
  • controlled environment
  • support

Great Features

  • Support for multiple languages
  • Easy to collaborate in the space
  • No signup required to post
  • Upload files from your computer, or embed from the web
  • Attached links and files have previews right in Padlet
  • Links are automatically recognized and hyperlinked
  • Real time updates of the padlet, or focus mode which lets you decide when to refresh the content
  • Copy posts within one padlet or from one padlet to another
  • Automatically create a QR code for your padlet

Tips

  • Use an organizational tool like a Venn Diagram or T Chart as a background to help you organize posts
  • Install Extensions for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari to quickly add web content to your padlets, or install the Chrome App for easy access
  • If students are posting without an account, have them put their name in the title of the post

10 Ideas to use Padlet in the Classroom

  1. Make a list of resources for your students, color coded by topic, or reading level.
  2. Have students create a wall as a presentation on a topic
  3. Create a padlet for collaborative brainstorming
  4. Collaboratively create a question and answer board with students
  5. Create a video playlist for a course
  6. Create a booksmarks board for a class
  7. Have students post reviews of books that they are reading
  8. Post a daily message/question to students that they can respond to
  9. Create a weekly “newsletter” for parents, curated by students
  10. Have students create showcases/portfolios of their work

Devices Supported

Padlet works on iOS, Android, Kindle, and on the web.

Padlet with Kids

Padlet allows use by children under 13, provided that schools take the steps needed to comply with their local laws. In the US, this means respecting COPPA and FERPA, and either consenting on behalf of parents, or getting parental consent before sharing any personal information about children.

Resources

Searching Effectively with Google Search

Searching

We don’t need to memorize facts as we can search and find them online. We need to know how to access information that we want or need, how to evaluate the information that we find, use it as desired, and communicate it in ways that are useful and/or appropriate. This post is about step 1: finding information.

Creating a Google Search Query

I teach students about identifying keywords, because I think it’s useful for searching in directories and databases. Search engines tend to be a bit smarter, and are good at answering factual questions. So while it’s still important for children to be able to identify the keyword related to their question, it’s just as useful for them to phrase questions in such a way that the search algorithm returns useful results.

When starting a Google search, it’s as good a beginning as any to simply type in your question. Based on the results, you can refine your search using search operators.

Making Sense of Results

search results screen

1. Search Query
2. Featured Snippet
3. Search results
4. Knowledge Graph

You may notice featured snippets on some of your results pages. A featured snipped is a potential answer to your question, along with source information. There has been problems with the accuracy of featured snippets so it’s important to be a critical researcher, and not just trust the result in the box. Notice the feedback link at the bottom of the answer box; users can let Google know about their experience with the featured snippets.

Another element of Google Search results is the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph a sidebar at the right side of the page which presents “information about objects in the real world” (Google). The Knowledge Graph is great for jump starting research, for learning more about a topic, and for finding new wonders/curiosities that you may not have known to ask.

Examples of Searches

Here are some of the searches that you can do with answers in an answer box. I’ve put the ones that I use the most frequently first. Try out the queries that interest you:

  • picture of public domain whale or picture of whale CC0 (or other animal)
  • thank you in finnish (try other words in other languages) or type translate to get a translation widget
  • weather in prague (or other location)
  • time in Ottawa (can also phrase as a question)
  • timer, 2 minutes timer or stopwatch
  • calories in an egg (replace for other food)
  • 3 euros in czk or 1 ft in cm (replace the number and the units; can also phrase as a question)
  • calculator (or enter in a calculation)
  • define data visualization
  • population of prague (or other public data)
  • BA853 (or other flight number)
  • PRG to YOW (or other airport codes)
  • prague to vienna
  • sunrise prague or sunset prague (or other location or zip code)
  • sweet potato nutrition or sweet potato facts (or other food)
  • where was einstein born (or other quick facts)
  • easter (or other public holiday)
  • how to bake beets
  • flip a coin
  • roll a die
  • attractions prague (or other location)
  • goog (or other stock symbol)
  • asthma (or other medical condition, works better at http://google.com rather than http://google.cz – try both)
  • fox origin (or other word)
  • my events or my reservations or my flights
  • show me my photos in march 2016 (if you use Google photos)
  • area of a circle (or other shape)
  • volume of a cube (or other solid)
  • y=x^2 (or other formula)
  • what does a cat say (works for 10 animals; no fox :()
  • metronome

And now for the fun queries:

  • askew
  • do a barrel roll
  • zerg rush
  • google in 1998
  • atari breakout (image search)

Note that I usually type my search query to be as short as possible.

search queries

Sources:

Spring Cleaning for your Mac

cleaning supplies

Sierra has included some new tools to manage storage on your Mac. However, if you have an earlier version of Mac OSX, these options are not available.  Cleaning your Mac is an important step in maintenance, and includes cleaning the hard drive, as well as the outside of your device.

Clean the Hardware

First off, turn off your computer and unplug it from power. Take your computer out of the case. Get a microfiber cloth, dampen it slightly, and wipe down your computer. You can also use the damp microfiber cloth on the screen. If you keyboard is extra dirty (I’ve seen some keyboards that I didn’t want to touch), use a soft toothbrush to get between the keys. Lifehacker explains that you can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser if you computer is greasy. We also have some LCD cleaning foam in the Idea Lab. Here are the official cleaning instructions from Apple.

Update your Software

Now’s a good time to update your software as well. I usually recommend that people do security updates as soon as they come out. Update your apps in the App Store, as well as your operating system, if your hardware is compatible.

Also, clean up your login items, those are the applications that automatically open when you start your computer. Go to System Preferences | Users and Groups | Login items, and delete the items that you don’t want to automatically open when you start your computer.

Make Space on your Hard Drive

  1. It’s okay to delete apps that you never use on your laptop. You may have installed something for testing, or for a short time, and kept it installed. If you no longer need it, delete it. You can do that by dragging them to the trash can. For a cleaner uninstall, you could use an app like AppCleaner.
  2. Clean out your old photos and videos, remove duplicates, and empty your Photos’ trash.
    • export old photos to an external drive
    • save old photos to Google Photos or to iCloud with optimized storage turned on (only available in Mac OSX Sierra)
  3. Clean out your download folders. Either move files into Documents or delete them.
  4. Organize your desktop. Delete saved screenshots that you no longer need, and move files into folders in Documents. If you can’t see your desktop, it’s a good idea to clean it up. If you want to move a file but be able to quickly access it from the Desktop, make an alias to the file on the Desktop after you move the file.icon for alias
    • To make an alias, click on the file with two finders and select Make Alias.
    • Drag the alias (it’s not a real file, just a pointer to a file as seen by the arrow on it) to the Desktop
  5. Use an app like Disk Inventory X to see the size of folders, or use the Finder to find large files.

To use finder to find large files:

  1. Open Finder, 
  2. Go to File | Find (shortcut CMD – F)
  3. Change Kind to File Size.
  4. Set the minimum File Size requirement e.g. 100 MB

find large files gif

Back Up

Use Time Machine to back up your hard drive, or copy your necessary files over to a back up hard drive. It’s a good idea to schedule a weekly back-up time in your calendar. I encourage you do that now, if  you haven’t done it before.