Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Common Core Digital Curriculum Mapping with BYOC

Most experts will agree that a quality education within any school is rooted in its curriculum. Most schools continue to create, analyze, update and store their curriculum map in binders that are kept in various places... and each year they pull these out, review and make changes. Some schools do this by a creating a team that has to all come together and meet each time they want to review the information. Sometimes a school will have the key stakeholders review it independently and then get together on it, and others have built some sort of electronic method to store information that can be reviewed and then meet on it.

So how does a school minimize the time and maximize the return on the effort that is put into this all-important part of building the base of what is one of the most important parts of what happens in the classroom? The key to this is having all the information in the same place. That place should be accessible to anyone on the team at any time. And the team members should be able to collaborate and make changes to the curriculum map on the fly, and everyone should always have direct access to the same information.

Enter Build Your Own Curriculum by School Software Group. BYOC (as they call it) is a web-based Curriculum Mapping product that is delivered with State and National Standards pre-populated (if you wish) or not at all. This includes all the Common Core standards, too. And it allows you to build, store and access your curriculum map year-to-year very easily.

Using this approach, BYOC allows teachers and administrators to quickly locate and use resources that will help build and enhance your courses. The product allows you to easily see things like: how well the scope and sequence works, how the school is meeting (or not) the standards, how well the assessments are working within the curriculum and more. One of the greatest things about BYOC is that it allows each district/school to see what other member schools are doing. Need some inspiration? You can easily see how another school, anywhere in the country, is doing it! You can also create public views of your curriculum map for parents to view via the web.
BYOC is a great product for any school looking to move their curriculum mapping into the Internet and Cloud-based services era. On their website, you can get a preview of how it works on their Sample Curriculum pages with live, real schools who chose to share it. Check it out via SchoolSoftwareGroup.Com!

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cutting out Cable with PlayOn!

As you may have gathered from my previous post, Finally HBOGo Without Cable.. sort of..., we do not subscribe to cable television and have not for almost 5 years.  99.9% of the time we don't miss it at all.  Sure, there is the occasional event that comes up that we'd like to see live, but they are few and far between.  Watching the ball drop on New Years Eve was one of those things for the first two years.  Now, UStream has their own New Year's Eve show -- problem solved!  We can watch just about anything we want, any time we want on our mix of AppleTV, Roku, PlayStation 3 and iPads.  But this post isn't about our set up -- I'll do one on that at a later date -- this one is about one of the best things that we have in our set up and why we'd be a little lost without it!



That is PlayOn!

What is PlayOn! exactly?  I call it the glue that binds all of our devices together!  Why?  Simple... We are Apple people as a rule.  My wife and I have MacBook Pros, everyone in the family has an iPhone and we have 3 (going on 3) iPads in the house. Biiiig Apple people.  That means that we are heavily invested in iTunes and have been for years.  In fact, several years ago (perhaps as many as 8) we began copying our DVD collection into iTunes and ditching DVDs when we could (you know, if we didn't think we needed them for the car -- but that's another post, too!).  So, with that being said -- we have chosen iTunes as our defacto media database location.  All our collected music and video is housed within our gigantic (over 500GB) iTunes library.  Initially we were using a Windows Media Center PC that I built, and it worked to play videos and music via iTunes.  A little clunky, but it worked.  But when Microsoft killed support for WMC and we had no need to record shows off cable TV any longer, we wanted to ditch the huge PC that was sitting in our living room.  So naturally, we purchased an AppleTV.  It had Netflix and we could easily stream our movies and music from iTunes.  But then we wanted one for the bedroom, too.  And we didn't want to shell out another $99 for an AppleTV.  So we bought a Roku instead at half the price to see how good it was, figuring if we didn't like it we would return it and buy another AppleTV.  Well, we loved it.  There were hundreds of channels -- many free -- and we discovered new things to watch content on.  One big problem, though.  You couldn't stream from iTunes to it...  that was sad.  We kept it anyway because there was enough content to justify it, we just couldn't watch any of our movies on it.  




And then we discovered 
PlayOn!  Playon! allowed us to stream (almost) any digital media file directly to our Roku.  Now, we can watch anything out of our iTunes library (by pointing PlayOn! Server to the folder with our iTunes library in it).  Our viewing and listening experience on our Roku has expanded exponentially -- and as a bonus -- it works seamlessly with our PlayStation 3!  So the kids can watch the movies in our library on the PS3 without any hassle at all.  PlayOn is compatible with any iOS device, Roku, XBOX 360/One, PlayStation3/4, Android and dozens of other devices.  They have a page that details supported devices here.

PlayOn! requires that you have a half-way decent PC (Yes, Windows only) running on the same network that your Roku or other device is on.  Once you have the software installed, you simply need to download the PlayOn app onto your device and it simply works from there.  Once you have it all set up and installed you will notice that how I use PlayOn isn't all it does... it does so much more.  It takes just about all the television media content on the Internet and puts it all in one place!  That means that any website that streams its video content may be in PlayOn!  This includes Hulu and Netflix, sure, but also SyFy, ABC, NBC, FOX, History Channel, MLB.TV, YouTube and so much more!

If you are serious about "cutting the cord" from cable, you have to take some time and investigate PlayOn! for yourself.  It's well worth the investment!

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Finally! HBOGo without Cable TV! Sort of...

It has been a very long time since we had cable in our home.  My littlest guy is turning 4 in November, and it was before he was born that we finally told Comcast, DISH and anyone else to take a hike.  We only have Internet service through Comcast.  We don't have a choice as to who delivers our Internet, so we have to pay the Big Red Machine something... but we have a nice big Internet pipe at a reasonable price, so no complaints about that really.  We also subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu+ that we watch on our iPads, iPhones, Roku, PS3 and AppleTVs.  In addition to that, I buy the MLB.TV baseball subscription each year.  Let's me watch my Royals, Yankees and Pirates games at will.  It is working out quite nicely, honestly.




But I've always said that if HBO would follow the same subscription model as Netflix or MLB.TV, we'd certainly subscribe to it.  But no, HBO still insists that you have a subscription to HBO via one of the big cable companies so -- sorry - no HBO.  And at this point, with True Blood and Boardwalk Empire pretty much done, we don't care.

And then AT&T came out with this... they have a deal where if you subscribe to their Internet with basic channels for $39/ month they will give you HBO with HBO Go and Amazon Prime as part of the deal.  Not too bad, right?  I mean... Amazon Prime is $89/year alone.  But, of course there is a catch.  OK, a couple.  First you have to subscribe for a year, and if you cancel you get hit with $180 service charge.  Installation is $99 and only includes one set-top box.  Television is not in HD (but HBO Go is).  Cable Modem rental is $7 a month and the price goes up to $120/month after one year.  


Obviously AT&T has felt the pinch, as I'm sure other cable providers are feeling.  So they made an effort here, but it seems like they simply veiled the same old type of package with some shiny digital add-ons.  It looks like in year one, it's not a bad deal.  After that it is the same old cable company rip off price switching that we have been putting up with forever.

Thanks, but no thanks AT&T.  You still don't get it.  We don't need cable.

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Common Core Assessments Using Headphones


I have posted a couple of times about things that relate to Common Core.  This post is about assessing students using Common Core standards using headphones.  Why?  It is simple.  Many Common Core assessments will be done on a computer.  And as such, any sound or speaking parts will need to be delivered to students in a manner that only they can hear it -- via headphones.  Headphones are something most schools do not think about until the last minute.

You might be thinking, "Headphones?  What's the difference?  We'll just buy a bunch at Wal-Mart."  It might not be that simple for your school.  Whether you have joined with the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers you need to be aware of how different types of headphones can be used and can impact the quality of assessments that your students are taking.  

And now you might be thinking, "Really?  What's the difference?"

The differences between cheaper "disposable" or "bulk" style headphones, and a more durable set of classroom headphones can be striking in the areas of quality, durability and usability.  Did you know that some tests will exit or become disabled if the student attempts to adjust the volume within the computer operating system?  If you are giving a test like this, you may need a classroom set of headphones that features external volume control.  Are you giving foreign language assessments?  Many foreign language Common Core assessments require the students to speak -- your headphones might need microphones built-in!  What kind of connection do you need?  Single plug (like one for a Macintosh) or a dual plug connection with separate headphone and microphone connections (more traditional).

These are just some of the things to consider when you are preparing for your Common Core assessments.  A great resource for Common Core Headphones is a company called Encore Data Products.  They have created this fantastic video below to help you with your Common Core Headphone selection process!




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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What's New in iOS 8? Here's a Run Down!



Have you downloaded iOS 8 yet?

No?

Well, I downloaded it and here is a quick round-up of what's new!


 Photos
  • Photos are be integrated with iCloud so that every photo and video you take now lives in iCloud 
  • You can access and download them anytime from your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, OS X devices or the web.
  • It can automatically keep the original high-resolution photos and videos in iCloud and leave behind lightweight versions that are perfectly sized for each device.
  • To help you sort through all the photos in iCloud, you can search by location, time, and albums you’ve set up. And there are smart editing controls that help you quickly edit and crop photos from your device.
  • Your changes are immediately uploaded to iCloud and visible on your other devices. And the edits are nondestructive, so you can always revert back to your original if you change your mind.
     
Messages
  • You now will be able to capture and send audio from within the message editor.  There is a new microphone button that let's you record directly into your conversation.
  • Users who receive a voice recorded message can raise the phone to their ear to hear the message.  
  • Video messages can be sent in almost the same way, and watched directly within the Messages app.
  • it's now possible to send multiple photos or videos in a single message instead of requiring a separate message for each photo.
  • You can start a group conversation and give it a name.
  • Leave the conversation whenever you want or turn on Do Not Disturb and then read through the messages when you have time.
  • You'll also be able to share your location in the middle of the conversation by displaying a map of your location right in your message.
     
Design
  • Interactive notiļ¬cations (that pop up on your screen) let you take action on texts, email, calendar invitations, reminders, and even messages from apps like Facebook right from their notification banners — without leaving the app you’re in.
  • Double tapping the home button will not only show your most recent open apps (multitask bar), but it will now show, at the top of the screen, your most recent contacts and favorite contacts.  You will be able to tap a recent contact to call, text, or start a FaceTime call.
  • The Mail app has a new swipe down gesture that minimizes an email being composed to let a user do things like quickly copy and paste between messages.  You can simply tap the minimized draft message to resume editing.
  • Mail is now smarter, recognizing information like dining reservations, flight confirmations, and phone numbers, allowing it to be add to Calendar, Contacts, and other relevant apps.
  • Safari will now let users tap the Sidebar to see your bookmarks, Reading List, and Shared Links.

QuickType
  • Now when you type, you’ll see choices of words or phrases you’d probably type next, based on your past conversations and writing style.
  • QuickType will learn your email and text style as well as learn your conversation style with your contacts and predict text you will use during your conversation.
  • Your conversation data is kept only on your device, so it’s always private.

Family Sharing
  • Family members (up to 6) get immediate access to each other’s music, movies, TV shows, books, and apps. Download what you want with a tap anytime you like. All without having to share an Apple ID or passwords.
  • This feature allows family purchases to be bought with the same credit card and it allows children to initiate purchases that must be confirmed by a parental device.
  • Family Sharing automatically sets up a family photo stream where you can share photos, videos, and comments. And everything stays up to date on everyone’s devices.
  • It also lets families share a calendar and reminders.
  • Family Sharing can automatically share your location with your family members and show you where they are, too.

iCloud Drive
  • iCloud Drive lets users store presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images, or any other kind of document within iCloud, making them accessible on any Mac or iOS device. It functions similarly to Dropbox or OneDrive, with a dedicated folder within Finder on OS X Yosemite that users can drag files to.
  • Edits you make on one device appear on all of them.
  •  iCloud Drive now allows apps to share files, a file can be accessed in one app and then manipulated in another.

Health
  • Health app functions as a dashboard that aggregates data collected from various health and fitness apps.
  • Connect Health app to your medical provider's app to communicate your data to your doctor.

Continuity
  • The Handoff feature now let's you can start working (ex: writing an email) on your iPhone and pick up where you left off when you sit down at your iPad or Mac.
  • This all happens automatically when your devices are signed in to the same iCloud account. Use Handoff with favorite apps like Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts.
  • Now your Mac or iPad can make and receive phone calls on by proxy to your iPhone as long as your iPhone is running iOS 8 is on the same Wi-Fi network.
  • Incoming calls show the caller’s name, number, and profile picture.
  • You can click or swipe the notification to answer, ignore, or respond with a quick message.
  • Making a phone call from your iPad or Mac is just as easy. Simply tap or click a phone number in Contacts, Calendar, or Safari. It all works with your existing iPhone number, so there’s nothing to set up.

Spotlight
  • Spotlight is now able to show suggestions from the Internet, iTunes, App Store, locations nearby, and more. For example, when searching for a movie using Spotlight, the search results will include both movie showtimes and relevant iTunes link


     Siri

  • Siri can now be activated with the voice command "Hey Siri," and the voice assistant also features integration with Shazam, identifying songs upon request (which gives you the opportunity to purchase that song from iTunes).
Have you found any features I missed?  Comment below!

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Common Core Math Standards Testing App for iOS and iPad

Common Core...  love it or hate it, it is here.  There is certainly a wealth of debate on the Internet about whether Common Core is good... bad... or something else.  But, if you have a student in public school today they are being taught from the Common Core.  And even independent schools are taking their cues from Common Core.  So -- when an app (or series of apps) come along that help teachers, students and/or parents with Common Core, that is a good thing!

Enter an app from BrightMinds called Common Core State Standards Grade 3 Practice Math Test.  This app runs on any iPad running iOS 4.3 or above (which is any iPad) and puts the student through a series of grade appropriate, Common Core consistent questions that help prepare the student and asses the students level of knowledge within the 3rd grade Common Core standards.




As you can see by the screen shot above, the app is very easy to use and laid out so that anyone can read the screen and answer the questions.  The skills that are testes are consistent with the standards and tell the student and teacher what needs to be addressed and improves upon before the actual tests are given.  The specific areas that the test hits home on are Operations and Algebraic thinking, Numebers & Operations in Base Ten, Numbers and Fractions, Measurement & Data and Geometry.

This app looks perfect for any school that has iPads and is looking for an easy way to assess students progress in the all important area of mathematics.  And for $1.99 it is positioned in a good place for anyone to give Common Core State Standards Grade 3 Practice Math Test a try.


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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

iOS 8 - What iPads and iPhones are Compatible with iOS 8?


Apple has been talking about iOS 8 for a while, but I still get tons of questions about what devices will be able to run the newest iteration of Apple's mobile device operating system.  There have been a lot of rumors and talk about this -- but with Apple's big announcements last week that included the Apple Watch (I want one) and new iPhones -- the cat is out of the bag!  This is especially important for schools and classrooms who have invested in 1:1 iPad programs!  Get ready now!

Here is the breakdown of iOS Compatible Devices:



Click to enlarge

The compatible devices are:
iPhone 4S
iPhone 5
iPhone 5C
iPhone 5S
iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Plus
iPod Touch 5th Generation
iPad 2
iPad 3
iPad 4 (Retina)
iPad Air (Retina)
iPad Mini
iPad Mini 2 (Retina)

With the release date in looking in October, now is the time to check your device and make sure it is on the list!  Remember that just like iOS 7: Siri will only be available on the iPhone 4S and above, iPad 3 and above and iPad Minis.

So get ready to say, "Hey Siri" and iOS 8 on!


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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Title II -- What it is, Why it is important and Why it is bad for the Internet and Schools


What is Title II?
Title II is legislation that would provide the FCC the ability to regulate the Internet.  The FCC is an appointed body (not elected) that exists in order to oversee and regulate all communication forms within the United States and it territories.  The FCC is funded by wholly by the fees and fines that they hand out from year-to-year.  Title II would allow this body to creates rules, regulations and limitations on how the Internet in the United States would operate.  This includes pricing, privacy, traffic, availability, research and development of new Internet-related technologies.  It essentially puts a middle-man in between you and the Internet.  It is *not* net neutrality and at its basic level, it holds the ability to limit Internet access and increase a segmented Internet.

But I thought it was about Net Neutrality?
Well, it isn't.  It is about control and financing a controlled and neutered Internet.  Title II would allow for rules and regulations to be put in place to allow or disallow specific companies and organizations any activity that the FCC deemed fit.  This means that the government would sit square in the middle of technology development, research and availability.  This would lead to a bottle-neck of regulations that prohibit the investment in further broadband expansion.  Currently the United States has a much larger deployment of fiber optic Internet service than Europe does (see here), however this is largely because of the low level of regulation.  Regulations would stifle things like Google Fiber, which is just starting to get going, and other broadband services that would serve low income and low population density areas.  The places that the big guys like Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner can't be bothered with serving.  This isn't anything like Net Neutrality in that regard... neutral means equal availability for all.

Also, Title II does not put in place any safe guards against Internet "fast lanes".  In reality, any regulatory system opens itself up to the increased opportunity for pay-for-play to happen.  This puts companies like Netflix and Comcast in the drivers seat when it comes to how bandwidth is used and divided up once they have the safeguard of a regulatory environment.  And increased regulations mean increased costs for Internet startups and developers who want to create solutions for those who can't pay to play.  Increased cost always means strangled innovation.

Shouldn't the Internet be a public utility, like electricity?
No way, no how.  Why?  Just look at how far the generation and delivery of electricity has come of the past 50 years in the United States.  It hasn't come anywhere... since electricity was regulated and became a public utility throughout the country, it is reliable and steady in most areas.  It has not, however, seen any advances or enhancements in cost, delivery or technology.  We have coal, water, nuclear and solar power generation... but the oldest is still the method that most of the country still uses.  True, nuclear has come on the scene in the past 50 years -- but has it really made a difference in how much electricity costs?  Has it moved the technology of what electricity can do for us forward?  No.  The electricity experience in the average home in the United States has not been enhanced in our generation -- and that is what creating a public Internet utility would do for the Internet.  We've seen a great deal of expansion in broadband availability in the past ten years.  We have seen in-home, in-business and in-classroom speeds jump in the past five years.  Title II would cause that to come to a screeching halt.  Regulation would put a set limit on all of that, and everyone would have the same limitation as set by the FCC... except, of course, those who could pay to have more.  Like big companies.

I've talked about several subjects and points regarding why I see Title II as a death knell for the Internet as we know it, the Internet as we hope it can be... if it has raised your eyebrows, I invite you to visit DontBreakThe.Net and read more on the subject.  This is important because it impacts schools all over the country who do not currently sit on public networks.  That includes private schools, parochial schools, independent schools, boarding schools and schools that are in low population density areas.  Perhaps even sign the petition...  besides, it has some funny cat pictures on it.. and we all like that.


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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and 
The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!