Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Closing of a Decade: 2010-2019

I opened my laptop, not so patiently waiting as the bootup process ensued, first with the Microsoft Vista logo, then the black screen with the hourglass, before my desktop image and, slowly, items saved to my desktop, appeared.  This process took about two minutes before I was able to open up Mozilla Firefox for a quick check of my email and Facebook, then proceeded to open Microsoft Word to write a few lesson plans before creating a presentation for class in PowerPoint.

While this story may still be applicable to some today, a lot has changed since 2010.  Windows Vista has given way to Windows 10 after several other iterations of Windows.  My laptop is much faster, if I'm even using my laptop, as I am more likely to be using a Chromebook, iPad, or my phone, all of which either didn't exist or were in their early stages in 2010.  I have shifted to using Google Chrome for my web browser instead of Firefox and while Office has introduced a web-based version of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc., I rarely use them as I have embraced the Google suite of tools like Docs, Slides, and Sheets.

So much has changed in the last decade. And yes, I get that there is a debate whether 2020 is the start of a new decade.  Some will argue that this is the start, while others will state that the new decade doesn't start until 2021.  According to Wikipedia, technically, the decade does not start until 2021.  However, the article also states that "the frequently used method to refer to decades is to group years based on their shared tens digit, such as the nineteen-sixties (1960s)."  It also states that any set of ten years can be referred to as a decade., such as 1996-2005, the years in which I started high school and finished college.  That said, in my opinion, the debate on when the new decade starts is completely up to personal preference, much like what you like on your fries (I like salt and malt vinegar, ranch, or barbeque sauce, but if a place has poutine, that takes fries over the top!).
This is a great way to eat fries!
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Regardless of your thoughts on when the next decade begins, I wanted to take a look at three key things that have dramatically changed in the last decade and perhaps make a prediction at what may change in the next ten years, for society as a whole and for me as a professional.

Social Media
While it had been around for a few years in 2010, social media was still an aspect of our lives that hadn't fully taken command.  Facebook was the most popular platform, along with Twitter.  Instagram was in its infancy, Snapchat was yet to debut, and MySpace was beginning to slowly lose its base after a few years of social media dominance.  While social media had a strong presence and was beginning to have more of an impact on education, the greatest impact of social media was yet to come.

I was slow to embrace social media.  I didn't create a MySpace account until about 2008 and shut it down shortly after creating my Facebook account in 2010.  Twitter did not enter my life until 2015, and as of this writing, I have only been on Instagram for about six months.  As for other platforms, I do not have intentions of creating accounts, I am content with my current social media usage.

In the beginning, much like others, I used social media to connect with family and friends.  I didn't see it as a platform for other things.  But over the course of the last few years, that has shifted significantly for me and the general social media user.  We now use social media to meet new people, connect with others on common interests, connect with celebrities, athletes, musicians, and others that were once distant to the average person, and many people rely on social media for their news, alerts, and other things.

I see social media continuing to grow, but I also see many of the issues with social media, especially misinformation, continuing to grow.  Social media companies need to be better about rooting out misinformation and hatred toward individuals while protecting free speech.  Social media should bring people together, not polarize people and divide us further.  In ten years, I hope that we are more unified, not separating ourselves like cliques in a high school cafeteria. 

What a time for choice in regards to devices!  In 2010, we had laptops and early smartphones.  And I didn't jump on the smartphone train until 2012.  I was slow to embrace a smartphone and slow to realize the potential power of the smartphone; I was content with my laptop.  We also had the first generation iPad that was a gamechanger on many levels. 

While the Shift had a digital keyboard, the best part for me
was the hidden manual keyboard.  But I eventually was able
to embrace a device without the keyboard that I had relied on.
My first smartphone was an HTC Evo Shift.  Even though I finally got that first smartphone, I couldn't let go of the full keyboard.  The Shift had a screen that, well, shifted away from the main body of the phone to reveal a keyboard for texting, social media, etc. I refused to get an iPhone because they didn't have the keyboard.  But when I was due for an upgrade, I decided to "shift" to an iPhone and see what the fuss was all about.  Not only did I love my first iPhone and realize that I did not need a full keyboard, but that first iPhone began a trend of me becoming less reliant on my laptop. 

Schools saw the potential of the new choices in devices as well.  My school had iPad carts that you could check out, students had iPod touches and smartphones that were accessible to WiFi, and with the rise of Google Apps for Education (now GSuite), the first Chromebooks were born.  But for some reason, many schools, at least where I was, were hesitant to embrace Chromebooks.  The general idea was that it would be hard to connect to the network and security would be an issue as well.  However, once those issues were resolved, many schools began to scoop up Chromebooks by the hundreds.  A former colleague of mine even went as far as installing Chrome OS on some old laptops to make them useful again.  I even have an old personal laptop that I "turned into a Chromebook" with an open-source version of Chromium as a backup.  Then there are smart devices like the Apple Watch, FitBit, and others that are commonplace. 

Each week, it seems that updates are made to iPads, Android tablets, smartphones, Chromebooks,  traditional laptops and other devices that take them to another level that didn't seem possible a year ago, let alone a decade ago.  What will the next decade bring?  It's hard to make that prediction.  With 5G networks coming, connectivity is going to be even faster and more accessible than ever.  Devices are becoming more compact and powerful.  While the traditional laptop is something that will still be around in 2030, it may become the VCR of the DVD era: there will still be a demand, but prices will be higher than now because companies won't want to make them, much like trying to find a VCR now. 

Tools & Methods of Teaching
Along with the development of technology that is more accessible to educators and students came digital tools that enhanced and streamlined lesson planning, execution, and learning.  The dawn of 2010 was a time when Microsoft Office was my go-to tool where I would create activities in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel and I used a primitive teacher website that was provided by my school district.  But as the decade moved along, my teaching transformed into something that is unrecognizable compared to then.  Not only has technology changed my teaching, but my philosophies on a lot of things, such as worksheets and homework, has changed dramatically as well. 

While I could identify a plethora of things that changed my teaching and my mindset, the three that really had the biggest impact on me were Google Apps for Education (GAFE, now GSuite), Socrative, and CUE. 

In 2013, my school was selected as a pilot school for Google.  I immediately embraced it, even if it was as simple as converting my Microsoft files to Google and ditching my flash drive for Google Drive.  But I grew along with the Google suite as I learned more creative ways to use the tools, attended events like EdTech Team Google Summits, and grew my PLN in my district and through social media to be more innovative.  Now I am a Google Certifed Educator, Level 1 & 2, as well as a Google Certified Trainer, striving to learn more and be more innovative every day. 

Socrative was the first third-party digital tool that I embraced.  While I haven't used Socrative in a long time. I was one of the first digital quiz and response tools that I used with my students.  Eventually, it opened the door to other interactive tools like Kahoot!, Quizizz, Quizlet, Flipgrid and more.  While I would have eventually discovered other tools anyway, I give Socrative a lot of credit in helping shape the educator that I am now. 

And lastly, discovering CUE has been career-changing for me.  It all started with free registration and membership to a CUE Rockstar event in 2015 where I met Brian Briggs and got to know my colleague Steven New more.  Now, I have been to Spring CUE every year since, Fall CUE on three occasions, numerous affiliate events, I served on the board of CUE of Nevada for nearly four years, and can call dozens of people from throughout Nevada, California, and beyond as friends.  CUE has inspired me to try all sorts of things and is partly responsible for inspiring me to write my book that will be out in 2020!  I cannot thank CUE enough!

In the next decade, I'm not even going to try to predict.  So many things are happening on a weekly basis that some of the great things that were are using now may be obsolete in a year (not to say that Socrative is obsolete, but I haven't used it in about four years, and another great tool that I used to use, TodaysMeet, is no longer in existence).  I'm excited to see what's to come in the next few months, years, and the decade!

With the closing of this year and decade, my social media feeds have been flush with reflections from a variety of people.  It's been awesome reading these reflections, as it has brought about more reflections on my behalf.  Here's to the end of a decade and an even more successful one in front of us, the 2020s!  

Thursday, December 12, 2019

#PodcastEDCUE & Meet the Podcasters at Spring CUE 2020!

Podcasts and podcasting have exploded in recent years.  If there is something that you want to listen to and learn about, there is a very good chance that there is a podcast for it.  Just taking a quick glance at my podcast subscriptions will reveal to you that I listen to shows about hockey, current events, the outdoors, beer, comedy, interesting stories on how famous brands came to be (How I Built This) and tales spun in unexpected ways about influential and famous people (The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe), and of course, education.

Educators have fully embraced this popular medium.  Three-fourths of my subscriptions are shows dedicated to education, from educational technology to leadership, from discussions about controversial topics in education to way to turn education upside down and become a more effective educator.  I myself am the co-host of two podcasts.

The BeerEDU Podcast is a show that I co-host with Ben Dickson, a principal in Reno.  On our show, we are passionate about two things: education and beer.  Guests join us to discuss their passions and expertise in education and we enjoy beers during our discussion.  We even have a learn about beer segment of the show where we combine the two and learn more about more obscure aspects of beer and beer culture.

My other show is The Podcast by Sons of Technology, with Joe Marquez as my partner.  This show is based on a brand that Joe built for many years.  The premise of our show is to discuss various issues in education, often with multiple members of "the clubhouse", our soldiers of the #EdTechArmy, people that are passionate about education, passionate about taking risks, and passionate about changing education for the better.  And while the name is Sons of Technology (a play off of Sons of Anarchy), you need not be a son to be a member of the #EdTechArmy, we welcome all educators from around the world! You can find The BeerEDU Podcast and The Podcast by Sons of Technology on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Believe it or not, the 2020 Spring CUE Conference is quickly approaching! This year's conference will be held, once again, in Palm Springs, California.  The conference will begin Thursday, March 19 and go through Saturday, March 21 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  Like years past, attendees will have access to hundreds of sessions and workshops, keynote speakers, and the exhibit hall.  But this year, the event will also feature a Meet the Podcasters event!

What is Meet the Podcasters?  This will be a two-hour session in the exhibit hall where attendees will be able to meet the hosts and producers of some of your favorite podcasts!  You'll be able to ask the hosts some tricks of the trade, exchange some stickers and other swag, and expand your PLN!

Are you a podcaster that is going to be attending the 2020 Spring CUE Conference?  We want YOU to be featured during the Meet the Podcasters event!  If you are interested, please take a moment to complete the Meet the Podcasters form to sign up! But you will need to hurry because only the first ten podcasts to sign up will be featured!

And if the Meet the Podcasters event is not enough, we will be arranging a dedicated space for podcasters to record an episode while at the conference!  This is separate from the Meet the Podcasters event and more information and a signup form will be available soon!

I am very excited for the 2020 Spring CUE Conference and meeting new people that share the same passion that I do for podcasting.  In the meantime, if you are a podcaster or love to share what you've learned from podcasts, use #PodcastEDU and #PodcastEDCUE in your social media posts!  Let's connect one another to this incredible medium and grow together!

Until next time...

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Another Round of Chrome Extensions!

Every now and then, I like to reevaluate the Chrome extensions that I have added to my account.  Sometimes I eliminate some of them if I haven't used them in a while, some of them I turn off using the Extensity extension so I still have access to them.  Then I look at the ones that I am either using frequently or I have recently added and see a lot of potential in them.  Since it has been a few months since I have highlighted some extensions, I decided that it was high time to do so once again!

In lieu of linking each extension with the description below, I created a collection in Wakelet with the links to the Chrome Web Store for each one! So to save yourself some time searching for each one, check out my Wakelet with the links!

Immersive Reader & Read Aloud
For the last year and a half, I have been fortunate enough to work in a district that had purchased licenses for TextHelp's Read/Write Chrome extension for every student in the district.  However, after analysis of the district's budget, it was decided that the district could no longer afford to continue licenses for every student.  While some students will still receive full access to all of Read/Write's features, most students will not.  When this announcement was made, I met with a few colleagues to see what we could find that could be a free alternative to Read/Write.

Sample of some of the things you can do with the Use Immersive
Reader on Websites extension. I set it up so it broke down words
by syllable and highlighted verbs in red.  
Recently, my friend Joe Marquez (@joemarquez70 on Twitter, and my co-host of The Podcast by Sons of Technology) discovered the extension "Use Immersive Reader on Websites." If you have ever used Microsoft's Immersive Reader, it is almost exactly the same thing.  However, this extension is not endorsed by Microsoft.  So why should you trust this extension? First off, it was created by Riley Eynon-Lynch, one of the co-creators of Pear Deck.  And how did he create the extension?  He used the open API offered by Microsoft (according to a Twitter thread in which Joe tagged several, including Riley, he created it one night for fun).  By clicking on the extension on a webpage, it will instruct you to select some text and right-click it, then it will open up the text of the page in Immersive Reader where you can change the size and style of the font, the background color, and break down the words by type of word (noun, verb, etc.) and by syllable.  You can change the speed in which it is read and if it is read in a male or female voice.  You can even translate the text to one of the numerous languages and by clicking on individual words, IM will read the word individually and if available, provide an image from its picture dictionary.

Immersive Reader is one of the best free extensions that I have used in a very long time, however, there is one minor catch: it does not work on Google apps like Docs, Sheets, or Slides.  To use IM, you need to be able to right-click.  When you right-click on the text in Google tools, it opens up a menu for options within Google and does not give you the opportunity to use IM.  However, I was able to find another useful text-to-speech tool that works within the Google sphere, an extension called Read Aloud.  While this extension isn't nearly as robust as IM, it does have some features that I find a little better, such as automatic reading simply by clicking on the extension without highlighting and right-clicking, text highlighting, and a variety of languages (some of them are premium and you need to pay for Google's Cloud Text to Speech).  It also opens in a smaller window within the tab instead of taking you away from your main page like Immersive Reader.  However, either way, these are both great tools that are free within the Chrome Web Store.

Mercury Reader
I mentioned this extension in my post after Fall CUE.  Mercury Reader is an extension that eliminates all of the "noise" of a website.  For example, let's say you have an article from a news website that you would like to read but don't want all of the extra ads, video links, and clickbait stories that claim that you can "eliminate belly fat with this one weird trick" and focus just on the story.  With a simple click of the Mercury Reader extension, you can turn off all of that and see just the story! On top of that, you can change the size of the font, switch between Serif or Sans style fonts, and change to a dark or light theme (I prefer dark theme and it's much easier on your screen and battery when you use dark themes).  Once you are ready to move on, you click away from the article and it takes you back to where you left off.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get Immersive Reader or Read Aloud to work when a page was in Mercury Reader mode.  Immersive Reader would not work at all and Read Aloud stated that it could not find any text to read.  Hopefully, in the near future Mercury Reader will support text to speech programs (if you work for Mercury Reader and are reading this with all of the noise on my blog page turned off, of course, this would be a great upgrade!).

Grade Transferer
For many years, I have been using Google Classroom.  While there have been many updates to the grading function in GC, including the ability to weight grades now, there still has been the inability to easily transfer grades from Google Classroom to the gradebook (in my district, as well as all districts in the State of Nevada, that gradebook is Infinite Campus).  In the past, I have done a few things, including printing a roster of each class, writing grades in the rows and columns, and after I had piled up a few, enter them into my gradebook.  Over the past couple of years, I have used the Tab Scissors and Tab Glue extension to split my screen between my gradebook and Google Classroom, typed them in quickly, and "glued" the tabs back together again.

A few weeks ago, my friend Alison Levy sent me a text asking if I had ever heard of Grade Transferer (actually, the text said Grade Transfered, but it looked legit, but realized the typo when I searched for it, she is well known for being a great teacher and a terrible texter as she never proofreads!).  She told me that with a couple of clicks, it took grades from Google Classroom and pasted them into Infinite Campus.  So I added it and gave it a shot and she was right, it really is only a couple of clicks! You simply add your assignment in Infinite Campus (or other gradebook programs, check the details page of the extension to see if yours is supported), click on the extension in the Google Classroom assignment where it copies each student and their score, then click on it again in the gradebook where it will paste the numbers! While I had gotten very astute at typing in the scores (usually about a minute for a class), this takes about 10 seconds!  And while I haven't had any issues yet, it is always a good idea to double-check the copy and transfer.

Small PDF
Do you ever find yourself needing to convert a file from one type to another? Do you ever try to send an email with an attachment but once you press send, get the error message that the file size is too large to be sent?  Small PDF will solve those problems for you in one step! You can convert .pdf to .jpg, .png, .doc, and many other file types and compress .pdf files to make them smaller.  But wait, there's more!

Small PDF will do a variety of other things as well! All of those tools that you can use in a premium Adobe account?  It can do most of them!  You can merge .pdg files, delete pages, edit pages, split a file into multiple files, and much more!  You can upload files from your computer, from Google Drive, or Dropbox.  And there is even an integration with Gmail that allows you to do all of these things right within your email, so you no longer have to open an attachment, download, then find a way to convert it, merge it, etc. I find myself converting files often and this extension has been a life saver for me!

Small PDF does have a premium account that costs about $100/year.  However, in my experience, I have not come across anything that I wanted to do that was a premium feature yet.  And if you'd like to learn a little more about the Gmail integration, the team at Small PDF wrote a very informational blog post on a step-by-step on how to use the tool.  The rest of their website, smallpdf.com, is also very informational!

Social Book Post Manager
If you are a Facebook user, you know how hard it is to search for posts in the past.  You may also know how hard it is to bulk delete posts and/or comments from the past.  The Social Book Post Manager makes it a little bit easier to find posts and comments, delete them, and even unlike posts.

While I typically do not get too vulgar or controversial on my Facebook page, I have had my account for over 10 years and I have bound to have said some things that perhaps now with a clearer mind and eye that I don't want on my page.  I was able to do a search for posts that included a specific word and it gave me the option to delete the posts en masse or handpick ones that I wanted to keep while deleting the rest.  While it did take me a while to go through nearly 10 years worth of posts, it did effectively delete the posts that I wanted to get rid of.

And just as a disclaimer, the developer of this tool does not work for Facebook and it is not endorsed by Facebook in any way.  They only use Facebook as a reference for the tool.  And unfortunately, this does not work on other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

I am always looking for new extensions that will make my life easier.  And I enjoy putting together a post that highlights some of my favorites every few months.  You can find some of my other posts on Chrome extensions on www.andersonedtech.net.  Have a favorite that you are using currently?  I'd love to learn more about it!

Until next time...