Technology Integration for teachers

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

Technology Integration with Evernote: Workflow

A Workflow for collaboration:
As you can see it can start to get a little complicated. This is where developing a workflow really helps. Let’s take a look at a typical example. Let’s also take a look at a syncing concern.
Let’s address the syncing concern first. If you were to create a homework assignment in a shared notebook, it would be visible to students as you were creating and editing. Here is a solution. A note can be easily transferred to any notebook. If I were to create an assignment in an assignment development notebook that is not shared, it can be transferred to the homework notebook very easily. The option to transfer notes from one notebook to another is right below the note title. Click the pull down menu and select a notebook.
Here is an example. What I would do, is create a homework development notebook. In this notebook I develop any homework assignment. This notebook is not shared in any way. When I am ready to distribute the homework through the shared homework notebook, I’d transfer the note from my development notebook to the shared notebook.
When the student receives the homework assignment he or she can begin to work on the assignment. The student can work on the assignment using a development notebook and then transfer the finished product to a shared notebook. Just the same way you develop your assignments for distribution later. Noting that students can be forgetful, it would be better if they worked on their assignment directly in the shared notebook. This would be the notebook each student has shared with you. This has the added benefit of helping you monitor their progress as they work on the assignment. Don’t use this as an excuse to stay behind your desk. Mobile devices allow you to move around the classroom. Use these devices to monitor both your classroom and their digital content.
There are situations where you might have an assignment with several questions for students to answer and submit. In this case, students can copy and paste your assignment into their notebook. All they need to do is answer each question. When done, they can move their answers to a shared notebook.
A typical workflow for assignments and assessments.
Let’s look at a concrete classroom example. As a self-contained teacher I would have a stack of notebooks for each subject. Each stack would be similar with a few exceptions. I would have daily and homework assignment notebooks. I would have quiz, test and exam notebooks. I might also have vocabulary, journal and lab notebooks. All of these notebooks would be shared with each student in my classroom. In addition to all these notebooks I would have a development notebook. This notebook would not be shared. I would use this notebook to store all my pending assignments, homework, assessments and other materials. In addition I would have one more shared notebook for parents. This would be the homework assignment notebook that students see. In this way, parents know what homework assignments are provided each day and they don’t need an Evernote account. With all my notebooks in place I am ready to distribute any content I feel necessary.
Each student would also create several notebooks. Their notebooks would mirror my own with some modifications. As a teacher my notebooks would have view only rights. Students need to give me modify rights. Student notebooks also need to abide by a naming convention. Naming conventions are very important when collaborating. Naming conventions assure you can find and identify documents shared with you or anyone else. As a teacher you will also need to abide by naming conventions. I talk about those conventions later. In the mean time, this is my naming convention. Each notebook is named according to this convention. The student’s last name is first in the notebook name, followed by the student’s first name, subject and finally by the notebook contents. So if I were a student my math assignment notebook would be named like this (Reyes, Alex, Math, Assignment). Notice the commas. Using this convention I can easily keep track of all my student notebooks because they can be sorted alphabetically. Evernote helps to further organize these notebooks by grouping them according to owner. Students can have one or more development notebooks.

Technology Integration with Evernote: Collaboration


This is where we take a simple set of notebooks and take them to the next level. This is the point where Evernote shines as a teaching tool. One of the options available for notebooks is to share a notebook with another Evernote account. When you decide to share a notebook the recipient receives an invitation through email and through the Evernote application. When the other account accepts the invitation, he or she has instant access to all notes placed in that notebook. The notes are synced as often as Evernote syncs, or whenever the writer initiates a manual sync.

When sharing you have the option to have the notebook be read only. This means the person can only see the notebook content and won’t be able to change anything. Another option is to allow the invited person to modify the contents. This doesn’t mean that individuals can collaboratively create a document at the same time. Notes are not synchronous. If you want to make a notebook where an invited account can modify content, you will need to set workflow guidelines. At this point I don’t recommend sharing a notebook with modification rights. Wait until you feel more comfortable with this workflow. I will cover workflow in greater detail later. Use a combination of web share and individual sharing. Share as many notebooks as necessary.

Teacher and student collaboration:
What does this mean for teacher and student collaboration? As a teacher you can share a notebook for homework assignments, classroom assignments, or quizzes and projects. Students can refer to these notebooks or copy and paste any content into their own notebook. Remember, student’s should not have rights to modify a shared notebook from you.

From the student perspective the process is very similar. Students will share a notebooks with you. These notebooks can have similar formats. Students can share a homework or daily assignment notebook.


Technology Integration with Evernote: Setup and Overview

Evernote Integration:
A technology should be deep and extensive for integration into any classroom. By this I mean it should provide a variety of tools that allow it to be used in an extensive network. In education, this means it should provide all the necessary tools to be integrated into most, if not all, the content areas of instruction. There are a variety of tools that provide this level of integration and versatility. In order for a tool to reach this level of versatility it must exist without borders. By this I mean, it must be available in a variety of platforms and it must facilitate communication and collaboration. Above all, it must be easy and very intuitive to use.

As I said, there are a variety of tools that meet this objective. In this series of blogs I will focus on one application, Evernote. Before I begin, I should tell you that I don’t work for Evernote or get any compensation from Evernote in any way. My goal is to help educators understand how technology like Evernote can be used in classroom instruction.

Evernote is an application that does one thing and does it very well. It collects ideas and allows you to easily share those ideas with others. You can capture ideas in a variety of ways. It’s basic word processor helps to type your ideas. It uses your devices built in microphone to record your audio ideas, your device’s camera to take a picture, attach existing files from your computer, or capture web pages.

Sharing your ideas with Evernote is just as easy using traditional and social media. Email an idea to someone, post it on Facebook or Twitter. One of the options is to share a notebook with another Evernote user.

The Setup:
The first step is to look at any setup requirements. Evernote is free for the basic version. This is great because school districts are currently strapped for money. Cost is always the first roadblock that can end technology integration right in its tracks. This is why I always look at free or open source applications. Evernote works on a wide variety of platforms. This is because Evernote is an application that can be installed onto Apple, Windows and a wide variety of mobile devices. If you are a Linux district, a third party called Nevernote provides an application. Evernote doesn’t have to be installed. Evernote is a web application. Installed applications tie your device to Evernote on the web. You can log into Evernote’s web site and use it directly.

We can see right away the setup is going to be relatively easy. The application is available for all platforms. Download and install the client. Most teachers can usually do this easily enough. If you are part of a larger district you might have someone at your campus dedicated to do this job. Most districts today lock down computers so only a dedicated administrator can install or remove software. This is done for various security reasons. Our district is one such district. This could be a hurdle but it helps to coordinate with the computer administrator to get this done. Remember, he or she is just as busy and it helps to work together. If you are part of the emerging districts that have a policy of bring your own device, then installation is easily accommodated on your personal devices.

Why install? Isn’t it also web based? Yes, it is web based, and software installation is not required. Networks aren’t always reliable. With more users accessing a school’s network there are times that getting anything done can be painfully slow. Using the application gives some added benefits. The application saves a copy onto a device and syncs a copy onto the Evernote web account. With an application you and students always have access to information even without an Internet connection.

Creating an account for Evernote is quick and easy. All that is required is an email and the user to create a username and password. This account can be created within the application or on the Internet. A student can be up and running with Evernote in under a minute.

What can Evernote do?
This might have been the first question I addressed, but I saved it for this part. Evernote is a note taking application. It comes with basic word processing tools. For most integration purposes that’s all you will need. Students can insert images, audio, and attach files. Students can upload up to 60 MB each month. This might seem small, but most text notes can be measured in kilobytes.

At this point I think we need to redefine Evernote. This is important so you can understand what it can do in a classroom. Evernote is your student’s notebook. It is the notebook where students store their classroom notes, write journal entries, do their homework, and take a quiz, test or exam. This is also your teacher notebook. It is where you provide notes to students. Distribute and collect homework assignments, quizzes, tests and exams.

Now your asking yourself, how can Evernote help me do all that?

Evernote has another option that greatly extends its capabilities. Evernote has the option to create notebooks to organize all your word processing assignments. A student can have a math, science, or history notebook. Students can write their content notes within each notebook. Notebooks can be placed into stacks. Stacks are several notebooks grouped into a category. A student can have a science stack, which includes a notebook for notes, one for vocabulary lists, one for homework assignments and one for lab work.

As a teacher you can have a similar format. You can create notebooks for each of the content areas. In addition you can stack notebooks to include such things as a classroom syllabus, homework assignments, assessments, daily assignments and so on.

Thus far I’ve talked about how to organize information into notebooks and stacks. This is important because as a teacher this is how I would introduce Evernote to students in my classroom. Understanding the fundamentals is important because you will be using these basics over and over again. Once this set of fundamentals is in place you can take on the crucial process of collaboration.

A Philosophical Look at EBooks


EBooks have developed a significant presence in the last few years. I’ve created several e-books and they have really liberated my mind to express my thoughts and share my knowledge. Despite all this, I have a philosophical quandary over e-books and tree books.

There is a downside to both formats, and the more I think about it, the more I like the concept of tree books best. Let’s look at what goes into the creation of a book. Here comes the philosophy and the physics. EBooks are the product of thought. Thought is conveyed through oral conversations and through a written record. Oral conversations travel from the speaker to the listener. The listener interprets that oral transfer of thought, and processes that thought into another thought. A meme is born. A thought can go through several iterations of delivery and process by the originator of the thought and those that carry the original message to others through their own interpretation and oral communication. Interpretation is an important point. The mind does not record everything precisely. Even less now that our minds are less practiced with the need to remember. Thanks to books and the Internet. Interpretation changes the original message slightly or significantly. It is highly dependent on the interpretation of the receiver and eventual conveyor of the original message. This process of communicating and interpreting produces entropy. Entropy is essential to all we experience in the universe and the core of all variations from the original message.

A great deal of misinterpretation is removed with print. With print there is little doubt. The more thoroughly the message is written the less misinterpretation exists. The original thought can be sent out to millions with very little wavering from the original thought. I said very little wavering. There is always the possibility of misinterpretation, misunderstanding, or a complete failure to grasp the concept. Each mind is a separate entity built with randomness to facilitate change and survival.

EBooks are digital interpretations of the original books written by man for millennia. EBooks are stored digitally, which in itself is not a physical thing as we have come to interpret reality over the centuries. Digital books exist in the world of electrons. Electrons are as real as the skin on your body and the electrical impulses in your brain. Digital books and thought might come to have more in common than is immediately apparent.

EBooks require a vast array of resources to support its production and existence. The entire digital infrastructure we have come to rely on is required to create an e-book. EBooks need electricity for the computer and software that record your thoughts. Electricity often requires the consumption of vast amounts of fossil fuels. Facilities need to be built to provide constant and continuous flow of electricity. This process generates waste. EBooks rely on networks of computers to store and distribute. This process may be cheaper than print books, but the energy required to keep these machines running all day and night for years continues to drain our natural resources long after an author is done writing, a publisher is done promoting and readership for a book dwindles to a trickle.

Products required for e-books require many resources in the manufacturing process. E-readers are composed of many resources and each requires resources to produce and distribute. Waste is also generated in this process. Thankfully many companies have learned the value of recycling. Once you have an e-book on your e-reader the resources to sustain this product continue. An e-reader needs to be charged so its battery can generate the electrons to display an e-book’s contents. Without electricity an e-reader cannot transfer the authors thoughts. Without the e-book the author’s thoughts die with him or her. EBooks require our current energy infrastructure to assure that the thoughts of millions continue to exist.

Print or tree books require many resources to produce and distribute. There might be as much waste as in the production of e-books. Although the waste is that of different materials, electricity is still crucial to run the machinery that produces paper. The print process is yet another cog in this process with similar electrical requirements. The central resource, trees is renewable and most companies in the paper industry have seen the light and promote the renewal of this precious resource. With the advent of mass-produced e-books the destruction of trees has slowed considerably. It costs a great deal to distribute print books because of their physical nature. They consist of large amounts of matter and mass. This requires physical transportation by train, plane or truck. By the way, e-readers must also be transported and delivered to the consumer.

This is where print books and e-books part ways. At this point print books no longer require additional resources to function. The drain on natural resources ceases. A print book has reached a state of optimal entropic equilibrium. It requires no resource whatsoever to exist. A book can lie on a shelf for generations. One can open it hundreds of years later and all the information is still there. The thoughts of the original author are there for people to read with no additional technical requirements, apart from the technology to read the text. This technology is called knowledge.

A book becomes a resource. A book no longer taxes resources and becomes a source of new knowledge and thought. This leads to entropy and entropy always leads to some form of change. Physical print books have a presence that e-books do not. A physical book sits on a shelf ready to deliver its information and does so patiently for as long as it takes. It is easy to see because it exists in our state of reality. EBooks do not have this facility. An e-book is buried deep within one device, an e-reader. The device itself is the only sign in our physical world that a book might exist in the digital realm. Unless someone browses or searches for this book then it does not exist. Perhaps it is like the philosophical question. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a book has been created and is somewhere it the electrons of our digital infrastructure, does it still exist?

Although I create many e-books, I have come to appreciate the sophistication of print books and their ability to change the world, generations after an author has died. Yes, e-books can do the same, but I wonder if e-books will stand the test of time.

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