Facebook Privacy Tips for Parents

After my most recent round of Cyber-Safety talks, some parents expressed an interest in learning more about Facebook. The resources below should be helpful.

1. Common Sense Media – Facebook Advice for Parents http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/facebook-parents

2. Common Sense Media – Video about posting and tagging photos on Facebook http://www.commonsensemedia.org/video/modal/2082551

3. YouTube Video – Facebook Privacy Settings 2012

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Data Privacy Day

On January 28 and in the surrounding weeks, the United States, Canada and many other countries celebrate Data Privacy Day.  Privacy is our shared responsibility.  Participate in Data Privacy Day by helping your family protect personal privacy online. Keep reading to learn more about resources that will help you learn more about data privacy.

We will be hosting a repeat performance of the parent workshop, “Raising Cyber-Smart Kids,” on February 7, 2012. There will be a session at 8:15-9:30 am and 7:00-8:15 pm. Both sessions will take place at the Lower School, in the first floor commons.

Common Sense Media is a great resource to help you learn more. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, Common Sense Media aims to offer leadership and support for developing our young people into positive digital citizens who are media-smart. They offer developmentally age-appropriate, reliable information so you can decide what’s best for your family. All of the resources on their website are free. The organization’s email newsletter, which is free, offers a weekly round-up of the latest media releases and parenting tips on hot topics. Visit http://www.commonsensemedia.org and you will find tips on everything digital – plus reviews of 14,000+ movies, games, websites, apps, and more.

Resources related to personal privacy:

Learn more about Data Privacy Day (http://www.staysafeonline.org/dpd)

Data Privacy Day is an annual international celebration designed to promote awareness about privacy and education about best privacy practices.

In this networked world, in which we are thoroughly digitized, with our identities, locations, actions, purchases, associations, movements, and histories stored as so many bits and bytes, we have to ask – who is collecting all of this data – what are they doing with it  – with whom are they sharing it?  Most of all, individuals are asking ‘How can I protect my information from being misused?’  These are reasonable questions to ask – we should all want to know the answers.

Data Privacy Day promotes awareness about the many ways personal information is collected, stored, used, and shared, and education about privacy practices that will enable individuals to protect their personal information.

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Starting the Year in the Computer Lab

It is a few weeks into the 2011-2012 school year, and I am trying very hard to master some of the principles of Responsive Classroom in my technology classes. My school began embracing the Responsive Classroom (RC) approach about five years ago. A number of our teachers have attended week-long seminars and we are working hard to adapt the principles of Responsive Classroom to meet the needs of our school. Although I have not attended one of the week-long training sessions for the Responsive Classroom approach, I have read several books, collaborated with trained individuals, and attended shorter training sessions. Most of the training and materials available focus on the needs of the “regular classroom.” Technology (aka-computer class) is an enrichment class, and the schedule for my classes (45 minutes, 2 times a week, on a 3 week rotating schedule) causes me to struggle with some of the implementation of RC techniques. How can I embrace the idea of the First Six Weeks of School when I see groups of students for 3 weeks at a time?  How much time should I devote to introducing procedures with interactive modeling and guided discovery?

Despite the lingering questions I have about the best way to implement the Responsive Classroom (RC) approach, I am certain that it is effective and any time devoted to procedures or expectations is well spent. As our grade level teachers embrace RC, I have observed (on numerous occasions) that I can actually accomplish more with the students who are in a classroom that uses the RC approach. For the past four years, I have tried to adapt various RC practices to my own classroom. Some have been successful, and some are still a work in progress. This year, I think I have made significant progress in the area of introducing procedures and interactive modeling.

Let me begin by telling you what I did in the past. Understanding the need for interactive modeling to introduce procedures and guided discovery to introduce the use of equipment and materials, I have devoted the entire first and second class of the school year to a bit of both. Using chairs that swivel and have wheels, how to handle the computer and other pieces of equipment, and entering and leaving the class are just a few of the many topics that need to be covered. There were two significant problems with this approach: students did not get to use technology on the first day (major bummer) and by the second year, students felt they had already heard it all and did not need to fully engage in the process. After talking with several of my colleagues about my concerns, I came up with some new strategies for this year.

My first major adaptation was to find a way to introduce things more slowly and provide opportunities for technology use each day that the students are in class. To accomplish this, I had to make some adjustments to how I taught skills or introduced tools, but it seemed to work. One area I know has been improved is my beginning of the year introduction to first grade. Since I do not teach first graders at the beginning of the school year (they are in a science concentration first), I send the first two days of school with each of our four first grade classes so they know who I am and are introduced to the computer lab. This year,  I had all of the computers logged in for them when they arrived, after a brief discussion of some procedures, each student navigated to Tumble Books, and then we watched one together. With the promise that they would learn to use Tumble Books on their own in the future, my first graders got a small introduction to some procedures and have something to look forward to when they return at the end of our 3 week rotational cycle. This was a BIG improvement over my previous attempts of introducing first graders to technology.

After the first two days of school, I begin the year teaching second and fourth grade students in the technology rotation. Still struggling to figure out how to better engage my students in the process of establishing expectations and procedures and completely stumped on how to utilize guided discovery with equipment that is simply part of the room, I found myself pacing up and down the rows of the computer lab trying to come up with a better plan. Finally, inspiration hit. I removed all of the chairs from the computer tables and disconnected all of the keyboards and mice. When my first class of fourth graders arrived, I met them in the hall to give directions, we sat on the rug (also in the hall) to review the rules, and I invited them to step inside the room to receive their seating assignments. Students gathered along the back wall of the room while I directed them to their seats, and they were quite puzzled when they realized they were missing some important pieces of equipment.

After some brief notes about seating locations, I suggested we get started. At this point, several hands went up. The first student I called on said she would like to have a keyboard and mouse to operate her computer. The next student agreed and asked for a chair as well. I suggested we talk about how to properly use our chairs before we pass them out, and students made suggestions for appropriate use and modeled what appropriate use looked like. (Since I have modeled this for most of these students for the past four years, they felt up to modeling for me.) After this discussion, I modeled what I wanted it to look like when they got their chairs (located around the perimeter of the lab) and we moved on to the discussion and modeling of using keyboards and mice.

After this first class, I knew I had found a great way to get students engaged in the introduction of procedures and equipment. I repeated the process with my other fourth grades and the second grade classes as well. I tweaked the language I used and learned to streamline the passing out of equipment while I repeated the lesson with each class. I kept to the goal listed above and each class had time to use technology in each class period. Since that initial lesson, I have continued this process while introducing Moodle, headphones, and cameras. I know I still have many things to learn about using Responsive Classroom in the computer lab, but I feel like I have taken a step in the right direction.

Please share your knowledge of using the Responsive Classroom approach with technology or in an enrichment class (aka-special).

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Tools for Technology Integration

Tech Tools Presentation – Download the presentation.

Below are the links from the presentation.

Tools for Professional Growth:

edutopia –  http://www.edutopia.org/

SimpleK12 – http://simplek12.com/tlc/webinars/

Read It Later – http://readitlaterlist.com/

Diigo – http://www.diigo.com/ or http://www.diigo.com/education

LiveBinder – http://livebinders.com/

Useful Blog – Free Tech 4 Teachers – http://www.freetech4teachers.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/

“80 Online Tools, References, and Resources” – http://www.edutopia.org/groups/technology-integration-high-school/57108

Images:

http://compfight.com/ – searches flickr, designed for finding images to use

http://www.flickr.com/ – search, share

http://morguefile.com/archive/ – free to use images

http://creativecommons.org/ – images available for use

http://taggalaxy.de/ – fun way to search for photos on flickr

http://wikipedia.org – great for images (explain this resource)

http://pics4learning.com/ – copyright-friendly for schools

http://www.aviary.com/ – basic editing, stickers

http://www.picnik.com/ – editing, effects

Big Huge Labs – http://bighugelabs.com/ – create with pictures

Audio & Video

Vocoroo – http://vocaroo.com/ – record voice, embed, download or email

Animoto – http://animoto.com/education – create videos and presentations

screenr – http://www.screenr.com/ – record screencasts

Screencast-O-Matic – http://www.screencast-o-matic.com/ – record screencasts

Jaycut – http://jaycut.com/ – video editing

VoiceThread – http://ed.voicethread.com

Blabberize – http://blabberize.com/ – narrate and animate a photo

Voki – http://www.voki.com/ – create animated avatars

Collaboration:

Collaborize Classroom – http://simplek12.com/tlc/classroom/

EduBlogs – http://edublogs.org/

KidsBlog – http://kidblog.org/home.php

lino it – http://en.linoit.com/ – online bulletin board

Stixy – http://www.stixy.com/ – share notes, photos, documents,  to-do lists

PBWorks Wiki – http://pbworks.com/

WikiSpaces – http://www.wikispaces.com/

Storybird – http://storybird.com – collaborative story writing

Google Docs – http://docs.google.com, http://www.google.com/educators/p_docs.html

Type With Me – http://typewith.me/

Chat – http://todaysmeet.com/, http://tinychat.com/

Presentation Tools:

Creative Commons – http://creativecommons.org/

Slide Rocket – http://www.sliderocket.com/

PhotoPeach – http://photopeach.com/

Prezi – http://prezi.com

Tools for Projects:

Youblusher – http://www.youblisher.com/ – takes any PDF and makes it into a web-published book

Museum Box – http://museumbox.e2bn.org/index.php

Mind Mapping/Brainstorming – http://www.mindmeister.com/, https://bubbl.us/, http://www.spiderscribe.net/, http://popplet.com/, http://www.mindomo.com/

Penio – http://pen.io/ – simple text-based webpages

My Fake Wall – http://www.myfakewall.com/

Tiki-Toki – http://www.tiki-toki.com/ – timeline

Toolbox:

furly – http://fur.ly/ – combine multiple URLs into 1 short one

Google Calendar – www.google.com/calendar

embed it in – http://embedit.in/ – convert files for viewing on a website or blog

Zamzar – http://www.zamzar.com/ – convert files

Wordle – http://www.wordle.net – word clouds

YouTube Friendly – http://quietube.com/, http://www.tubechop.com/, http://viewpure.com/, http://mediaconverter.org

Google Maps & Earth – http://googlelittrips.org/ (Lit Trips), http://homepage.mac.com/larow2/Voyages/index.html (Historical Voyages and Events), http://edte.ch/blog/maths-maps/ (Maths Maps), http://issuu.com/richardbyrne/docs/google_earth_across_the_curriculum/1 (Google Earth Across the curriculum)

http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/ – Flat Classroom Project & other global collaboration projects.

http://www.epals.com/ – collaborate and connect with students all over the country/world

Content Resources:

http://www.tenmarks.com/tmother/teacher-index – free online tutoring program
http://www.khanacademy.org/ – instructional videos
http://web2.0calc.com/ – Free online scientific calculator
http://www.mathopenref.com/index.html – Geometry resource

http://www.sumanasinc.com/webcontent/animation.html – provides animations of science and statistics concepts
http://www.chemeddl.org/ – resources for teaching and learning chemistry
http://bodybrowser.googlelabs.com/body.html# – Google Body Browser (360 degree view and layers)
http://www.worldwidetelescope.org – High res images from space, can run from web

http://congress.indiana.edu/ – The Center on Congress
http://learning.snagfilms.com/ – free access to high quality documentary films
http://www.civiced.org/index.php?page=60_second_civics_podcast – 60 Second civics podcast with quiz (Center for Civics Ed)
http://www.cnn.com/studentnews/ – CNN Student News (US or International)

http://www.wordia.com/ – free visual, video dictionary
http://www.visuwords.com/ – online graphical dictionary

http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/ – many audio and video resources
http://www.mylanguageexchange.com/ – community to help others learn language
http://lingopass.com/ – practice speaking in structured conversations, teachers assign
Latin – http://latinum.mypodcast.com/
Spanish – http://www.notesinspanish.com/ – audio, worksheets

 

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Web Tools for Technology Integration

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I am giving a presentation on free web-based tools for technology integration. The slides for the presentation are above.

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SpellBoard for iPad

SpellBoard StudyWeekly spelling tests are a part of every young student’s life. SpellBoard (PalaSoftware) offers an engaging and effective way to study for those tests.

Users create custom-made quizzes for any word list in any language with an easy to use interface. Choose a grade level and start entering words. Each word must be typed and spoken. Recording is done with the built-in microphone. Users have the option of adding a typed and spoken phrase, synonyms, or antonyms.

Quizzes offer several useful features in addition to saying the word for the student. If a phrase has been entered, that will be read during the quiz as well. Students can have the word or phrase repeated and they are given instant feedback once they enter the word. Upon completing the quiz, errors are noted and stats are saved.

In study mode, SpellBoard provides the user with a virtual white board for practicing words. Words and optional phrases are spoken and written out for the student. A definition link is provided and students can look up word meanings on Wordnik.

statsSpellBoard allows for multiple student users and tracks individual performance as well as performance on each quiz. Tracking includes time spent studying and quiz results that include misspelled words.

Users can share quizzes with other SpellBoard users or with SpellBoard Buddy users.

My Thoughts: As a parent of soon to be 1st and 7th grade students and an educator, I love this app. Not only can it be used to study for weekly spelling tests, but it can be used to improve reading and vocabulary development. My youngest child can practice her reading and writing skills with the Dolch word lists that are provided by PalaSoftware and will use this app to study for her spelling lists in first grade. My oldest will be able to create her own study tools for her SAT vocabulary, content area tests and Spanish quizzes and tests.

What I Like: I especially like the multi-sensory approach to the studying. Students hear and see words and phrases and use the white board to write the words with their finger (visual, auditory and tactile). I also really like the detailed records kept on student progress.

What I Don’t Like: While this does not seem like a big deal, the font the words are written in is not “kid friendly.” How many of you write your lower case A like this – a? An emergent reader might be confused by the A/a and the fact that the lower case L and the upper case I look the same.

Recommendation: This app is worth the $4.99 it costs. Parents, students and teachers can easily create and share study aids with SpellBoard. Check out the screenshots below.

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Cell Phones in the Classroom

Books and Cell Phone

The national “Speak Up 2010” survey conducted by Project Tomorrow offers statistics to support the use of cell phones in the classroom. Many technology leaders have been advocating for the use of cell phones in the classroom for some time now. Parents support the use of cell phones in school, students support the use of cell phones in school and many technology leaders support the use of cell phones in school… In the words of one of my colleagues, “Yeah but, so what?”

My Position: First, let me be clear, I believe cell phones can be a useful tools in educational settings. My daughter is in middle school and has a Blackberry.  Her school has a policy of having the phones off during the day. I understand the need for this policy and I support this rule. At present, my family relies on shared calendars, email and text messages to juggle our hectic family life. My daughter simply checks her phone as soon as the bell rings at the end of the day. I have seen her use her phone to assist with homework (accessing the Internet) and I believe she is capable of making good choices with her phone if the school was to permit the use of phones during the day. Rules such as a cell phone ban are frequently out of necessity to curb inappropriate use. I support any school’s need to keep the learning environment free from disruption and to protect the privacy of the students at that school.

The Current Reality: The How can I simultaneously support the use of cell phones in schools and the rules that forbid them? I am realistic. As of right now, the adult world is struggling to manage the use (or actually the inappropriate use) of cell phones. Offices are banning cell phone use during work hours because of the decline in productivity. We all have experienced the rude cell phone user in some public place, and have probably been subject to a conversation with a person who checks their screen while you are talking. Is it any surprise that schools are banning these tools?

A Plan for Moving Forward: I propose that technology leaders take on the challenge of appropriate use of cell phones before we ask schools to take on the use of cell phones by students. I remember this same issue with the Internet. Teachers knew that the Internet could be useful, but fear and lack of knowledge made many resist the use of the Internet in the classroom. In my opinion, educators need the following things when trying to embrace change.

1. “The Why” – Before any educator will embrace change, they must understand how this change will improve the experience of learners in the classroom. This is a perfectly reasonable request and to be honest, I hope all educators resist change that does not seem to make sense. Technology leaders must take the time to show how cell phones can be useful in a classroom and connect teachers with examples that make sense. When a teacher knows that they can easily use Twitter and hashtags to facilitate quick checks for understanding or opportunities for reflection in the classroom (demonstrated to have a positive impact on improving understanding), that teacher will then want a device in the classroom that facilitates the use of Twitter.

2. Support from administrators or other school leaders – While many technology leaders tend to be in the, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” camp (strictly my own observation), not everyone who works in a school is willing to take the risk of asking students to use cell phones during class (let alone Twitter).

3. Clearly established expectations for appropriate use and consequences for inappropriate use (this falls under #2) – Yes, I advocate restricting the use of the phones and I support students losing access to the tool when they demonstrate that they can not use it appropriately. (Before the digital age, I would have taken away a pen or pencil that was a problem.) I know this is not a popular position, but repeated traffic offenders lose the right to drive, and there needs to be consequences that make texting in class or posting photos from the locker room too risky to try. A teacher has to feel that the management of the tool can not be so much work that they will not try using it. I don’t buy the argument that an engaging class will make the need for establishing norms for use unnecessary. Isn’t driving a real world, engaging activity that requires attention? Yet, people text, talk, tweet and update profiles while driving. An engaging class will certainly eliminate most issues, but we all know that there is that 5% that needs to be managed.

4. A strong cyber safety curriculum that explicitly teaches the appropriate use of cell phones, images and such. In addition, be sure students know how to manage/protect their own digital footprint and feel empowered to tell people not to post their photos. Not only do the students need this information, teachers want this information to be taught and parents must know that we are protecting their children by providing this information.

I propose that technology leaders ask their school communities to embrace the use of cell phones in school, but realize that we must meet educators “where they are.” When we ask educators (or anyone for that matter) to embrace their discomfort and step outside of their comfort zone, we must create a “safe space” for that to happen. If it really is time for us to bring cell phones into the classroom, then it is time for us to prepare our schools for this step. In my opinion, that is what being a leader is all about.

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Google Buzz and Elementary Age Students

I have spent most of the past month talking to students about cyber safety. In addition to sharing information about topics I want students to learn about, I spent a fair amount of time listening to what the students are actually doing when they are online. I enjoy teaching students about cyber safety because it is an important topic and they often see how it is relevant to their life at this moment.

One interesting thing I learned is that children as young as 9 and 10 are using Google Buzz.  Not only are they using Google Buzz without the knowledge of their parents, but many  are also struggling with how to use it and how to protect their privacy.

It is a common practice for parents to give their children Gmail accounts. It is also quite common that parents do not realize that Google accounts are not meant for anyone below the age of 13 (as per the  Child Online Privacy Protection Act).

Any person who has a Gmail account automatically has access to Google Buzz (and many other tools for sharing information that Google provides). When Google launched Google Buzz in 2010, many parents were caught off guard by the fact that their child was now using a social networking site to share information. Parents who have given their children Gmail accounts or who are considering it as an option, should take some time to become familiar with what Google Buzz is and how to manage privacy. Below are some useful links.

Here is a link to a site that talks about Google Buzz. The video on this website is the same one in this post. http://www.safekids.com/tag/google-buzz/

This is a link to a blog post from a parent who is an expert on Social Media (in business). It explains how she discovered that her daughter (9 at the time) was using Google Buzz. http://www.altimetergroup.com/2010/02/google-buzz-and-kids-parental-control-nightmare.html

If you would like to turn off Google Buzz on an account, click the “turn off buzz” link at the bottom of the Gmail user interface, similar to how you can turn off chat. There are 2 more steps beyond clicking the “turn off buzz” link, so be sure to complete all of these steps.

Here is a video about Google Buzz that was produced by Google for teens.

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Reflection – Outlook with Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging

The technology leaders at our school are constantly discussing options for improving the technology tools available. These conversations often take quite a long time because there is much to consider and we frequently investigate several options for each service we aim to provide. As a result, we are usually considering/evaluating several types of hardware and/or applications at any given time. To learn more about this process, read the post titled Innovation in Moderation. One thing we are currently evaluating is online access to the Microsoft products. There are several features that make this a desirable product, but at the moment, I am focused on the Unified Messaging feature of the Exchange Server.

To begin, I was given access to an email account on the new system and set up with Outlook 2011 with my calendar and contacts already imported. In addition, my phone extension was connected into the Unified Messaging service. At first, I sent a few emails and poked around in Outlook and with the UM system. This might seem a little basic, but I have used FirstClass for the past nine years, and I needed to get comfortable with Outlook again. After a few days, I decided it was time to “dive in.”

I needed to proceed as if Outlook were my only communication/organization tool. Currently, all of my incoming emails are auto-forwarded to my new address, and I am managing my tasks and calendar in Outlook. While most of the Outlook using world is accomplishing these same tasks, I am still in the evaluation stage of use, and breaking away from using other tools is part of the process. My role is to evaluate this tool for use by the school community while keeping in mind that a switch to Outlook may not seem simple for all individuals.

A few things I am keeping in mind:

  • Does this serve the required function(s)?

Important features of our current communication system include: email, shared calendars, access to the school-wide directory, conferences for group communication. There are many other features available, but they are not necessarily vital.

  • Does this allow us to streamline our tools?

As I discussed in the post titled Think Big, streamlining the number of tools/systems faculty members need to access is an important goal.

  • Will this be easy to learn and continue to use?

Changing tools causes stress for many individuals. While everyone is capable of learning to use any tool we adopt, time needed for training and the overall ease of use must be considered when looking at any tool.

Things I like…

  • Conversations view – Outlook allows you to have your emails organized by “conversation.” This keeps my inbox from looking cluttered.
  • My Day – Displays your calendar (for 1 day) and tasks. My Day is a stand alone application and can run even when Outlook isn’t running.
  • Tasks – I have been using another application to manage my to-do list, but I am finding that the tasks feature in Outlook is quite useful. They are better than the task management options in FirstClass and will allow me to stop using a separate tool for this purpose. In addition, I can add information related to a task in the area for adding a description. This allows me to delete emails that would have been kept for reference in the past. I simply copy and paste the information into the description of the task and delete the email.
  • Notes – Like managing my tasks, I have used a separate tool to manage most of my notes. While I will continue to use another tool (Evernote) for my note taking and writing, I now use the notes feature to take notes on items related to information from emails. In the past, I would save emails and that was not a streamlined way to manage information. For example, when I receive emails with information related to general technical issues and how to resolve those issues, I copy pertinent information and paste it into a note titled, “tech notes.”
  • Interaction with my office phone and the ability to dial in – Unified Messaging refers to the fact that you can manage all of your incoming messages in one place. This means my voicemail messages can be managed through my Outlook inbox and/or my emails, calendar, and tasks can be managed through my voicemail (on the phone).
  • Voice to text on messages – If I access my voicemail through Outlook, I will be able to see a transcript of the message. While they are not 100% accurate, the general idea can usually be ascertained. Additionally, if I access my email through a phone, it will read my email to me (that is just plain cool).
  • Easy to integrate with other applications or devices – Connecting my calendar, email, and tasks to other devices is essential. Typically, this is quite simple when using Microsoft products.
  • Web interface is great – The web interface looks almost exactly like using Outlook on my laptop. This is very important to most people because they are comfortable with using email on their personal computer, and they want to have a similar experience when accessing their email from another machine.
  • Layout – I personally like the layout in Outlook. Of course there is a certain level of customization available in any email client, but I find that the layout in Outlook provides sufficient space for reading email, viewing your inbox, and having easy access to the other tools.
  • Full contact info on email with VM info based on caller ID – When I receive a voicemail notification in my inbox, it includes general caller ID information and if the individual is in my contacts, I see the complete listing of contact information.

Things I don’t like…

  • Missed call notifications- I receive missed call notifications in my email inbox in addition to the voicemail notifications. I personally do not want to see this information. If a person chooses not to leave a voicemail, they do not intend for me to be made aware of their call.
  • Mind reading – I have never been fond of Microsoft’s attempts at mind reading. I find that their text recognition is a bit too aggressive for my taste.
  • Limitations for sorting/labeling tasks – Outlook allows you to create/assign categories to your events and tasks. Assigning a category gives an assigned color to the item that has been categorized. Tasks are then listed in order by priority, due date or alphabetical order. I personally prefer the Getting Things Done approach to project management, and I would like to be able to organize my to do list by “project.” Currently, this feature is not available with Outlook.
  • Categories for calendar and tasks are the same – Originally, I did not like this feature, but I realize that scheduling time to accomplish your tasks is important. I also trying to embrace this idea. The jury is still out on this one.
  • Preferences are lacking – While this may be more a result of my lack of knowledge about where to locate certain features, I find that FirstClass offers far more options in Preferences to control functionality.
  • Month view in calendar collapses scheduled events for the day – This is a real problem for me. At first glance, it appears that I do not have more than 4 items on any given day. The web interface does not collapse the events, and I prefer this.
  • Auto-memory of contact information – Most people prefer this because they never have to manage their contacts, but I find it problematic. I do manage my contacts, and have grown accustom to my email only recognizing contact information from my contacts or the school-wide directory. I do not want any random information pulled up when I am trying to type an email in a hurry.
  • I am still learning not to insert names from the directory using FirstClass short cuts – This is a simple case of user error, but I believe that other people will experience this frustration. Currently, I can type a few letters of a first and last name and press return to have the correct contact inserted into the to field. This is not the case with Outlook and I need to adjust.

Concerns, questions, things to explore further…

  • Will this be able to interact with our directory or will we need to build our own contacts for internal email?
  • Can I get My Day on my mobile device?
  • Can I turn off the missed call notifications?

This reflects my experience with Outlook and the MS Exchange Unified Messaging to date. By no means is it a comprehensive review of the product and it should be noted that I have simply tried to orient myself to the use of Outlook “on the fly.” Additionally, I am working with a test set-up and there are limitations caused by this. I still do not have answers to all of the questions noted above, but if I had to make a choice today, I would choose to stick with the MS Unified Messaging system and Outlook would become my communication and management tool of choice.

Do you have any experience with these tools? Any thoughts or questions about this tool? Leave a comment and join the discussion. Also, check back to see if I have anything new to add to my reflection.

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Innovation in Moderation

*This is a copy of a post that was originally posted at http://labs.da.org/wordpress/

As a technology coordinator, being innovative is a requirement of my job. My role involves seeking out and evaluating new technologies. In addition, I need to support the use of these technologies in the classroom. By definition, a technology coordinator is an innovator.

I enjoy the innovative nature of what I do and I am always interested in locating, evaluating and implementing new technologies. Where does the moderation fit into this picture? Everywhere.

Technology is an exciting field. There are cool gadgets, collaborative tools, flashy applications and multimedia resources just about everywhere you look. Before these cool tools are brought into a classroom, there are many questions that need to be answered. A small sample is offered below.

*Does this have application in the classroom? – Can teachers use this tool to facilitate learning?
*Can I facilitate the use of this in the classroom? – Do we possess the equipment and/or budget necessary to allow for uninterrupted use?
*Does this meet a necessary goal? – Will this tool facilitate learning, communication or classroom management in some fashion?
*Will using this tool be seamless or will it require more precious instructional time than teachers would be willing to sacrifice?
*Is this tool age appropriate for our students (considering physical needs, learning needs, safety needs)? – Do our students have the necessary technology skills to be successful with this tool? If not, will teaching these skills support our technology goals for the students at our school?

Those are just a few of the questions that are considered as we try out new technologies. Sure some tools clearly enhance the goals of our learning environments, but some tools require more careful consideration before they are brought into the classroom. While this thoughtful approach to embracing new technology might be misconstrued as the result of being a “digital immigrant” (or as my colleague Shea suggests, a “digital geezer“), it is simply good practice. One of the goals of the DA Labs site is to share information about this evaluation process. If you wish to check in on what we are playing around with, visit my blog or come back to DA Labs.

Recent topics include: Twitter, streamlining our information systems and digital resources, the successful adoption of new tech tools at the Lower School, and the issue of “cheating” with technology tools in the classroom.

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