Friday, 15 November 2013

Launch Teacher Dashboard from your Google App Launcher

Need to get to Teacher Dashboard quickly?   Want to have Teacher Dashboard as part of your new Google App Launcher?   Yes, now you can.

Download the Apps Launcher extension,  and you will be able configure your own menu grid.   Now you can include other Google Apps, and create your own with your own links.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hapara Works with IS 49 Educators at the NYC Gap App Challenge Design Event

On Saturday I had the opportunity to sit down with a group of NYC DOE teachers, administrators, and change directors at the NYC DOE Gap App Challenge workshop. Our team is honored to have been selected to work with the intrepid teachers of IS 49, a title 1 middle school on Staten Island.

Our task is to take our existing knowledge management platform for Google Apps using educators and work closely with the IS 49 team to find some aspect of our tools and make it better. The Hapara team humbly serves educators in nearly 30 countries. We work with a wide range of schools that serve a diversity of students. We learn from our international schools that serve expatriate and international business communities. We learn from our suburban schools who frequently have the privilege of serving their communities with dedicated technology directors and technology integration specialists. We learn from our charter school networks that are taking managed risks every year to discover or in some cases, rediscover, education models that will move the needle on student achievement. Our foray into IS 49, and our expansion into several other New York City schools this fall will be an opportunity for the Hapara Team to learn how our tools, coupled with the Google infrastructure, can best serve a population of students with lower education capital than many of our other clients.

The learning began on Saturday as we spent time troubleshooting how to reconfigure the work flow of our partner teachers at IS 49 to ensure that students would be producing digital work in their Google Apps domain on a regular basis. Having been a teacher for 20 years myself, I continue to be amazed at the flexibility and willingness to adapt that I discover every time I work with a group of teachers. It is with honor, humility, and hope that I enter into a year of discovery invention with our IS 49 partners.

Jack West
Lead Educator
Hapara Team

Friday, 5 July 2013

New Child's Online Privacy Protection Rules in Effect July 1

New COPPA rules went into effect on July 1st. Edtech providers are going to have to be more careful about their interoperability. The rules now hold any service provider responsible not just for what data they collect about minors, but also what any application channeled through the service's interface collects.

We can expect that Google will be careful about what apps become available through channels like apps in drive, Google Play, and extensions through the Chrome store.

For a thorough legal review of the impact of the new COPPA rules, have a look at this blog post by attorney Jane Coviello.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Translating Literacy Development Best Practices to the World of Digital Work Using Hapara's Teacher Dashboard and Google Apps - Part 2

In the first post on this topic I shared how Lewison, Flint, and Van Sluy's four dimensions of critical literacy can be enhanced when students use Google Apps under the guidance of a skilled educator, empowered by Hapara's tools for Google Apps. In this second post I examine more specifically, how research supported literacy development structures that leverage peer learning, as identified in Fisher and Frey's Improving Adolescent Literacy, translate into the world of digital student work.

The first major topic addressed in Fisher and Frey's work is the value of peer learning. Adolescents development, in particular, is heavily reliant on social context. Teachers establish a safe, but challenging academic environment, and students provide for each other a peer network that governs the amount of electricity present in the learning process. Hapara tools help structure Google's cloud-based, peer interaction capabilities in a safe and easy to monitor fashion that encourages teachers to help students increase the current in their learning.

Fisher and Frey identify both heterogeneous grouping and task interdependence as preconditions for success in peer learning activities. Google spreadsheets and forms are excellent tools for list making, data collection, and organization of groups and activities. Hapara's Teacher Dashboard adds a color-coded grouping layer onto each of the Apps in google that is flexible, customizable, and allows educators to structure who they see at any given moment to allow for 'in the moment' differentiation. Additionally, the grouping structures are embedded into Hapara's Smart Copy Wizard, a tool that turns upside down the drop model of student work sharing. By using groups in Smart Copy Wizard, teachers can push out readings, assignments, and even place holders to the entire class or each selected group. This makes it simple, for example, for a skilled educator with a deep pantry of resources, to share with each student reading group a text on a topic that is relevant to them and at their own reading level.

Google Plus Communities can turn each Think/Pair/Share event into a United Nations Assembly. Unfortunately, Google Plus is a full function social network, and is consequently still limited to secondary students. Google Plus Communities allow educators to contain student discussions in a walled garden where the only participants are those that the teacher has invited. I have experienced first hand the power that sharing your thoughts before your peers has in these communities. The special ingredient here, that those unfamiliar with social networks might not fully appreciate, is that adolescents pay full attention to their activity when they know that not only will their peers read their ideas, but their peers will also read what others are saying about their ideas in the comments. These three layers of accountability make Google Plus an incredibly powerful tool in the classroom. 

Hapara's Teacher Dashboard feeds educators the content of student posts in real time, organized by class and by student. Additionally, a place where young adults sometimes get themselves in trouble is in their online profiles. Teacher Dashboard also presents educators with an up to date summary of what students are saying and showing about themselves there.

The jigsaw is a tried and true method for facilitating both independent resource collection and review as well as social learning in an 'each one teach one' style event. Again here, Google Sites, shared Docs, and Blogger can be useful for structuring the activity. Add to this, Google's video conference tool called Hangouts and you can now make the jigsaw asynchronous, and perhaps even cross disciplinary. With free video-conferencing tools, Google gives free to schools, workplace functionality that many small businesses wish they had. Google Hangouts are already being used to facilitate collaboration between students in different schools, to bring experts into the classroom for live Q and A, and even to allow collaboration between students and their teachers outside of structured class time. Hapara's chronological feeds of student activity across the Google Apps suite gives educators and administrators the confidence they need to push the boundaries of the classroom; making what happens in school look more and more like what happens at work.

The social part of social learning is paramount for adolescents. Hapara tools with Google Apps help educators to meet adolescent learners right where they want to be. In this place, the boundaries between school and life disappear, and learning becomes living.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Translating Literacy Development Best Practices to the World of Digital Work Using Hapara's Teacher Dashboard and Google Apps - Part 1

As a lead educator on the Hapara team, inspired by the opportunities and challenges presented by
the forthcoming Common Core assessments in the United States, I am re-reading an ed school classic, Improving Adolescent Literacy, by Fisher and Frey. It occurred to me as I began reading, that for schools making the 1:1 transition, there will be some significant adjustment of our tried and true best practices from the paper and pencil world to the digital one. Consequently, I have attempted here to suggest how some of the research-supported, best practices identified by Fisher and Frey for promoting student literacy in reading and writing might translate into the Google Apps world, supported by Teacher Dashboard.

Not surprisingly, in most cases the translation is quite simple, and the digital workplace offers added opportunities for student engagement and more frequent formative assessment by teachers. I briefly address below how Lewison, Flint and VanSluy's work on critical literacy might translate into the digital world of work in Google Apps facilitated by Hapara's Teacher Dashboard.

Fisher and Frey cite the work of Lewison, Flint, and Van Sluys on critical literacy. According to the authors, there are four dimensions of promoting critical literacy in developing learners. Each of these dimensions takes simple mechanical reading and writing skills a necessary step further to promote thinking at a level that is essential for higher level cognitive function.

  1. Disrupting the commonplace
  2. Interrogating multiple viewpoints
  3. Focussing on sociopolitical issues
  4. Taking action and promoting social justice

The first two of these dimensions can be facilitated easily in the classroom by a skilled educator. The latter two are sometimes neglected simply because they require significant time allocation. Exploring sociopolitical issues in reading and writing, let alone taking action and promoting social justice, require commitment, thought and time to execute. U.S. educators are too familiar with the loss we have experienced in recent years as a consequence of content driven standards that are long and thin. The Common Core may offer an opportunity to reclaim the classroom activity that put us deeply into the territory of the latter two of these four dimensions of critical literacy.

Google Apps and Hapara, in turn, offer educators the opportunity to structure learning time for students that inhabits all four dimensions identified above. Structured internet searches driven by shared docs, sites, or teacher blogs can be a great way to put teacher-curated, current content in front of students. Google forms are a great way to sample student understanding as they react to teacher presentations, or explore articles, videos, interactive websites about a topic that has gravity for them. Student blogs for any age, and Google Plus for high school students are an excellent way for students to socially share their perspective and test their opinions in the court of their peers.

Teacher Dashboard empowers educators to push the limits of what they have been able to do in the world of digital work with their students. ‘Just in time’ feeds of student work in Drive, posts in Blogger and Google Plus, and social commenting, allow teachers to monitor recent and ongoing activity. The dashboards give educators confidence that their students are productive when given the freedom to pursue their own learning in a trajectory and on a time scale that best suits each of them individually. Hapara's Remote Control function allows teachers to monitor the real-time activity of students in their browsers, assuaging fears that they are off task, and facilitating teacher-student collaboration (in class) at a level that simply did not exist prior to cloud-based productivity tools.

This current time in history presents an incredible opportunity for technology to finally deliver on the long held promise of enabling students to learn at a pace that is consistent with their capabilities, and with a focus that is consistent with their interests.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy Puts Student Voice Front and Center with Teacher Dashboard for Google Apps

Good things are happening at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Science Teacher Tim Best and his colleagues are deep users of Google Apps. SLA has cultivated a culture of writing across the curriculum. This is facilitated by cloud-based sharing of documents in Google Apps, and critical friends groups that engage in peer editing.

SLA started using Teacher Dashboard to increase teacher productivity and deepen use of Google Apps amongst the students in the Fall of 2012. Tim tells us, “Teacher Dashboard saves me an hour’s worth of work every time I want to collect student products.”

Marcie Hull, SLA technology integration specialist, notes, “When the teachers need me to help make changes in Google Apps for their students, it is one or two clicks, some typing, and I’m done.”

Take a visit to the SLA website. It is worth the trip to see how they put student voice front and center.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Survey Drawing Winners Speak About Teacher Dashboard

In March, the Hapara team surveyed a small percentage of Teacher Dashboard users from around the world. To encourage participation, we offered to award one Google Nexus 7 tablet each to one technology coordinator and one teacher. Our winners were Rachael Baker, a teacher at the Clevedon School near Auckland, New Zealand, and David Collett, the technology director at International School Manila in the Philippines.

After our winners were informed of their good fortune, we asked them to comment on their experience with Teacher Dashboard. Here is what they had to say...

Rachael, Teacher

"Teacher dashboard has allowed me keep track of how my students are using their email and reset passwords easily when needed!  It has also allowed me to send docs to the whole class via the 'smart copy' feature and to see who has worked on the doc."

David, Technology Director

"As a manager of Teacher Dashboard and the Google Apps for Education Domain at our school, the joy and benefits come from a range of sectors. From an administrative point of view, the application allows for the quick creation and management of student and teacher accounts and helps bring order to the high volume of traffic we experience on a day to day basis. Often schools adopt the GApps suite because of the power it brings to learning, but realize that very quickly it becomes difficult to manage the volume and varying methods of use of teachers and students. 

The extra level of administration and organization really helps streamline the workflow and adds efficiency for us, teachers and students. From a teachers point of view, the added functionality of Teacher Dashboard allows management at a more micro-level and gives some of the power back to teachers. For example the ability to reset passwords, automatically have class and student folders set up and shared, as well as calendars and eportfolios. This standardization of practice helps everyone know how and where things are shared and builds a robust platform for learning, doing away with some of the confusion. 

The ability for a teacher to walk in day 1 with the system up and running lowers barriers to entry and focuses GApps on the goals of the school which are teaching and learning. Finally I would like to say that support from Hapara has been fantastic with great help-ticketing and the ability to speak directly with developers in the company.

At a recent conference in the region, I presented on the benefits of Teacher Dashboard for enhancing formative and summative assessments. Teacher Dashboard helps focus the GApps system on easy dissemination and submission of work, automatically creates calendars and eportfolios and provides other functionality. By creating an easy way of using/accessing GApps, feedback time improves, collaboration increases and the role of assessment is transformed. The use of online eportfolios allows for summative assessments to be preserved, valued and showcased by students and teachers. Teacher Dashboard enables a simple, effective and transformative way to organize GApps and as such allows schools to focus less on the tech and more on the learning which is the overarching goal of all technology in education."

Friday, 8 March 2013

Google Chromebook Pixel in Student Hands

I got my hands on a Chromebook Pixel this week and released it into the wild. For some background on what the Pixel is, check out this review. In sum, killer laptop with incredible resolution and touch screen interface.

Students use Chromebooks in my science class. They check them out at the beginning of each period and return them before the end. On Tuesday, I substituted the slick, aluminum body Pixel for one of the older Samsung Series 5 machines.

Curious about how a student might best use the touchscreen interface, I rigged the test by handing the Pixel to one of the more active and curious students in this particular class. The lucky student (guinea pig?) was Zach.

Our one hundred minute block periods allow for significant independent activity time, and I structure the majority of that time in Montessori-style work stations. This allows me to move around and interact with students individually and in small groups. On Tuesday, this also allowed me to observe Zach throughout the class.

At first, Zach was as impressed as I was with the screen resolution and overall aesthetic. I told Zach that the screen had touch capability when I gave it to him. He immediately began to test that out, and did almost all of his screen navigation with his fingers. This surprised me because I found the touch navigation a bit awkward. It could be that he was just putting it through the paces, but he had a smile on his face as he re-sized windows and opened new tabs and touch-clicked open new links.

In very short order, Zach opened up a Google Drawing, guessing as I had, that this must be an enhanced experience. Just as I was, however, Zach was disappointed. “I can’t do anything with the touch screen in drawings. Really?” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

By the end of the period, many students had gathered around Zach and the classroom was occasioned by the occasional squeal. They had discovered that using Maps with the Pixel touch screen is pretty awesome. Take the best smartphone map experience you can imagine and then port it to a much larger screen with significantly higher resolution.

Because the operating system is Chrome, Pixel users are initially limited to whatever web apps they can use. However, it is reportedly possible to run a second operating system on these new pixels. Yes, linux and maybe even Windows. Putting Google’s competition strategy with Apple aside for the moment, if I could run native applications on that machine, it would most definitely become my primary workhorse. At a $1300 price tag, however, Zach is going to have to wait a few generations before he gets such luxury in class again.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

ePortfolios: A Teacher's Perspective

There are many things to consider before introducing ePortfolios 
into your classroom.

  Some points for consideration:
  - What sort of access do my students have to computers and devices?  
  - What ways can I maximise this access? - e.g. afterhours use of school  equipment, byod, etc.
  - How reliable is the internet connection? 
  - How long will the ePortfolio be in use - 1 year, 2 years, etc?
  - What storage requirements are my students going to need?  
  - Will the ePortfolio be protected, or open to others?
  - What are the technicial skills of my students and what do they need to learn?
  - Do I have all the tools required - cameras, scanners, etc?
-       How will the parents/caregivers interact with the ePortfolio?

How to manage ePortfolios in the classroom or school:
1.   Change in teaching practice needed, not just add onto what you are already doing.
2.   Lots of PD for teachers.
3.   Just in time sessions on a regular basis for teachers.
4.   Train a few 'student experts' who then teach others.
5.   Much of the student input can be done at home, if access is available.   Connecting to learning, reflections and metacognitive activities could replace useless homework worksheets.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Blended Learning for High School - Montessori Style

I am obsessed with the work of Maria Montessori. The scientist observer mind that Montessori brought to the education of children, enabled her to construct social learning environments that would be the envy of any major corporate human resources department. Observing the Montessori pre-school my own children attended inspired me to restructure my high school science classroom to reflect some of the Montessori structures that allow for freedom of choice and encourage self-discipline in a supportive and structured fashion.
My partners in this transition have been my two co-planning colleagues, Ben and Allison, but also a class set of Chromebooks running Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard. Ben, Allison, and I have divided up the responsibilities for digitizing our curriculum and screencasting mini lectures as well as laboratory briefs. Constructing version 1.0 of our curriculum in the cloud is a bit like making sausage, but student exam scores (year to year) are remaining flat while student affect is improving markedly. That is encouragement enough to continue with the transition.

The one to one Chromebook deployment means that students have the freedom to move at their own pace when solving problems and watching video lectures, and make choices about experiments they wish to pursue. Like most US public school classrooms ours contain thirty to thirty five students and one teacher. This ratio makes individual contact with every student during every class quite a challenge. The one to one deployment opens the opportunity to make this happen, but only if there is a significant amount of autonomous engagement.

The Chromebooks alone do not make this possible. The combination of a structured playlist with opportunities for topic choice based on student interest, and the insight into student activity offered by Teacher Dashboard make the Montessori-like environment possible. The dashboard views of drive, sites, blogs, etc. allow us to see progress students are making in real time. The Remote Control add-on allows us to view student screens, and monitor student activity as if we taught classes of six students.

On any given block day (100 minutes), I make a point of personally checking in with every student in the class. The Dashboard allows me to approach these encounters with some data. “Javier, I noticed that you took Cornell notes on the Newton’s third law video lecture, but you skipped the formative quiz, and now you are working on the problem set. Can we work together on the first couple questions of the quiz before you do your next problem?” Really.

There are still the two or three students in each class who will not do the work outlined for them without a hand on their shoulder and the occasional furrowed brow pointed in their direction from across the classroom, and at first it seemed as if these students were struggling even more in these classrooms with more choice. Then it occurred to me that I was just more aware of the lack of engagement of these students now that the data was in my face all the time. In my prior, teacher-centered model, I could be guaranteed that they were facing me as I directed activity in the classroom, but there was no guarantee (nor evidence) of their engagement. Now there is.

Montessori’s found that the pre-school mind and body needs some different things than does the adolescent mind and body, but something that is consistent throughout all of Montessori’s work with developing humans of all ages is the need for well-timed challenge and choice. My colleagues and I are on our way to making this a reality in a traditional high school science  classroom with Chromebooks and Teacher Dashboard.