Author Archives: Adam Hausman

Google Earth Journals To Peer Editing: The Cloud In English Class

Google Earth Journals to Peer Editing: The Cloud in English Class

Recently, a Chicago teacher published a lesson on a popular teach networking website that turned a few heads. For a world literature class, the teacher integrated lessons that incorporated students creating and maintain Google Earth journals. As the class progressed through each reading and author covered in the curriculum, students participated in assignments that both integrated and relied on Google Earth and related Google programs to produce assessments. Students interacted with each other via Talk and Hangout, collaborated and helped each plan and design their respective journals, and shared out findings and interesting connections in a group setting. Essentially, the class gave students not only a literary grounding in the world literature community, but also a visual one. The incredibly important job of providing meaningful context in an English class is made incredibly easier for teachers by projects like these. With cloud services like Google bringing in reference points and making it easier and easier for students and teachers to gain useful information immediately at need in the classroom, there is no doubt the cloud has re-shaped the way English teachers approach their instruction.

While this project and curriculum was certainly an effective and innovative idea, perhaps more useful for English teachers has become the growing number of texts available via the cloud for free, as well as through providers like Amazon, Google Books, and Barnes and Noble. Quickly the days when dusty and torn paperbacks were used again and again by classes until they literally fell apart. Instead, teachers can assign readings and homework without worrying about providing student access to the text outside of the classroom. PDFs of English texts are useful for many other reasons as well. Most notably, students deft with programs like Adobe Reader can annotate, navigate, and print from PDFs, giving them constant engagement with the text without needing to be concerned about maintaining the condition of the book itself.

English classes have long been thought of as the musty antique rooms of the modern middle and high school. Whereas subjects like science and math, responding to changes in the economy and the workforce, have leaped ahead in integrating new technologies and cloud services into instruction, English classes continue to rely on hard copy books, written assessments, and traditional instruction. However, this is no longer true for the majority of teachers, and indeed is rapidly becoming ancient history in many school districts. As both teachers and students continue to grasp the excitement and opportunity afforded for both instruction and collaboration through the cloud in secondary classrooms, ideas continue to spring up that may revolutionize the future of English education to the same extent math and science instruction has been changed. While lessons like the Google Earth journal and new resources like digital texts offer numerous potential limitations as well, some of which are still unidentified, the massive crowd of teachers experimenting with these technologies across the country seems to indicate that innovation will continue to respond to the new needs of the 21st century English classroom.

By Adam Hausman

YouTube And New Media In The Classroom

YouTube And New Media In The Classroom

YouTube and New Media in The Classroom

One thing many of us may remember from our elementary, middle, or high school careers was the exhaustive process for bringing in a movie or video clip into the classroom. The teacher was forced to go retrieve a television cart with a VCR, spend long minutes finding a remote and configuring the thing while students were left to their own devices, and much of the time many videos desired for class instruction were unobtainable in the first place. Imagine the relief of teachers these days, then, as they continue to implement cloud video services like YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and many others as a means of bringing students related video information and media to support classroom learning. From showing films alongside novels to invite student analysis and comparisons, to bringing in new media programs like TED Talks to enhance learning and provoke meaningful debate, cloud video services are quickly becoming not just an addition, but indeed the norm for teachers in their curriculum and instruction planning.

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The utilization of cloud video services in the classroom is really a no brainer when you consider it. Aside from student engagement and interest being spiked by a change in classroom routine and instruction, videos are usually an excellent way to present or review concepts in a different fashion. This kind of multimodal instruction has been demonstrated time and again by research to be perhaps the most effective form of both growing student development, and maintaining student retention. Aside from the ability to show videos, perhaps even more exciting is the ability for students to both utilize videos in presentations and classroom assessments, as well as the opportunity for students to work creatively in producing video media projects as an alternative to traditional oral or written assignments.

A further benefit of the cloud has been the growing number of companies and groups developing video media specifically geared toward utilizing the cloud to enhance classroom learning. Foremost among these has been TED, the lecture series group that has now decided to focus specifically on education as well. Recently, TED released TED Ed, a one-stop shop for educators chock full of TED Talks that are both meaningful and designed specifically for classroom instruction. Educators can post discussion questions, mark video annotations (just as they can on YouTube) to insert “lecture notes” into videos, and integrate the videos into instruction instead of simply replacing it.

Certainly, the potential for integration of cloud video services has yet to even be fully realized. As teachers and video services both continue to develop new and interesting ways to gear this technology toward classroom instruction, the potential for enhancing student development, classroom learning, and student retention continues to grow as well. Beyond that, with video media becoming a dominant form of communication in the 21st century, the introduction of this type of media to students during their early academic careers is also a logical next step toward ensuring their preparation for careers in the world today.

By Adam Hausman

Cloud Computing In Education: The New Start-up Frontier?

Cloud Computing In Education: The New Start-up Frontier?

Ever since the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, the dream (or perhaps more accurately, fantasy) of creating a successful start-up and striking gold on the Internet has continuously drawn in new entrepreneurs seeking both fame and fortune. Constantly looking for a new market to conquer (or create), entrepreneurs tend to be drawn to sectors that are either innovating quicker than anywhere else, or that are lagging sorely behind the times. As cloud computing is incrementally being introduced as a useful technology in classrooms across America, entrepreneurs have begun to flock to education technology start-ups, quickly making it one of the fastest-growing areas of new development in technology as a whole.

The appeal of pursuing a start-up in education software or web services is multifaceted. Aside from the limited amount of existing education technology companies (obviously changing now), many school districts (specifically in urban and suburban areas) are beginning to spend large amounts of money upgrading their classrooms and buildings to make them useful for education in the 21st century. As such, the amount of cash waiting to be spent on new software licenses, hardware, or technology-based learning methods is exponentially larger than it was even a decade ago. This means that there are many more customers and potential buyers for education products, and a much greater chance of succeeding and returning an initial investment by innovating in education.

Another aspect of the appeal of creating a successful start-up in education is the capital to be gained by it, both social and for your business. Assisting in education is a great way for a company or individual to make money while also working toward positive change, a rare opportunity in entrepreneurship given the goals of the venture. The remarkable confluence of factors that have led to education becoming a lucrative arena have also opened up the possibility for companies to improve their image and their outreach by bringing their investments and ideas to the public good. Investments in education can return companies and their investors two-fold, offering an opportunity to make money and to gain valuable customer and public capital by improving their image.

While the course of investor entry and development in education remains very much a murky proposition, the chance to make money and gain good will out of the proposition is very clear. For technology companies looking for a chance to expand their reach and influence outside of the current commercial channels and market segments, education remains an untapped proving ground that can be ripe for expansion if the right company or entrepreneur seizes the opportunity. Already, Google has begun to expand its footprint in educators’ minds significantly, developing new web services and tailoring existing services and products to meet educator and student needs. Products like Google Drive and cheap Chromebooks have vast appeal for teachers and parents of students alike, and as Google sees more success it will become harder and harder for more to resist entering the education spectrum themselves. The expansion we could see in education technology in the coming years could be jaw-dropping.

By Adam Hausman

What Does The Classroom In The Cloud Look Like?

What Does The Classroom In The Cloud Look Like?

Cloud computing has been exciting people with its implications and opportunities especially so over the past several years, as more and more of the public have been exposed to the potential of this technology.  While many people’s first experiences with cloud computing have revolved primarily around the digital sharing of music and video media, these same applications for cloud computing carry significant implications outside of the entertainment field.

The classroom has become a major test lab for cloud computing and its potential to revolutionize educational, social, and economic systems that exist in society today.  As more and more urban school districts continue to search for answers to stagnant test scores and high drop-out rates, cloud computing-powered classrooms have become the Holy Grail of most principals’ wish lists.  While the obvious costs associated with the technological infrastructure needed to accomplish making this technology widely available, cloud computing remains a hypothetical solution in the minds of many teachers.  However, as urban districts pump more and more money into upgrading their infrastructure and bringing cloud computing to every high school class, it is worth taking a look at the potential repercussions to academics as we know it.

Do we really want to give teenagers even more time to be distracted by technology?

It really depends on who you ask.  First, we need to rule out teenagers, who would certainly support the ability to bring their laptop, iPad, or smartphone to class to use.  However, as any teacher working in a tech-heavy school can tell you, no manner of great lessons or interesting subject material can prevent the obvious teenage wandering to Facebook, Twitter, or the rest of the web.  One thing that teachers have been clamoring for from tech manufacturers and software developers alike has been an intuitive education management system, which allows for functions like automatic screenshots and remote desktop controls.  By giving the teacher the ability to monitor, control, and more importantly limit students’ ability to search specific sites or go off-task, cloud computing becomes a much more effective classroom tool, and much less of a potential distraction disaster.

So, what’s the purpose of giving students access to cloud services like Google Drive in class?

For the exact same reason professionals use it! From sharing documents and resources among each other during group projects, to being able to meet with a teacher and go over revisions remotely, to revision tracking and other important elements of teaching the editing process, the potential for cloud computing in the classroom is essentially limitless.  And that’s just an English classroom.  From Google Forms being used for everything from daily homework and class surveys, to Google Earth being used as the framework and platform for opening unit lectures, new educational uses for cloud computing tools are emerging at an incredible rate.

Which tech company is poised to assume the mantle of education technology leader?

Currently, it is Google, Google, Google, and Google.  While tech giants like Microsoft, Apple, and others continue to take swings and challenge the “Don’t Be Evil” giant, Google has made remarkable inroads into education policy and tech-for-the-classroom, far more so than its usual rivals.  Urban districts around the country, which sit on tens of millions of dollars in funding for technology purchases and equipment, are being courted actively by Google for everything from software licenses, to free support for Google cloud services, to Chromebooks that can be bought cheaply and in mass numbers for entire classes and grade levels of students.  While it is a sure bet that once other tech giants get wind of the money at play in this market sector they will make plays themselves, at the moment the standard for cloud computing in education is being set by Google.

By Adam Hausman

Parent-Teacher Communication In The Cloud

Parent-Teacher Communication in the Cloud

As the cloud continues to expand and touch more and more of the practices that make up education in American high school classrooms, a natural place for innovations in cloud computing was always apparent in streamlining communication between teachers and the parents of their students. With communication needed on everything from in-class assignments and homework, to behavioral or grade conferences, to excursions or special class information like assigned readings, getting important info to parents is a constant worry and essential part of any teacher’s normal routine. As such, finding ways to bring that process to the digital realm (and specifically, to the cloud) was an area ripe for new ideas, and those ideas have begun to emerge in districts across the United States.

One of the most prominent examples of cloud computing in teacher-parent relationships is the Parent Portal technology currently in use by many school districts across the country, notably in large urban areas. These districts, which deal with parent populations usually restricted by transportation issues and busy work schedules, were consistently in desperate need of a new way to enable parents to stay in touch with happenings at the school and in specific classrooms. Parent Portal, an innovation similar to the Blackboard education management system widely used in college courses, allows parents to check in on items like grades and classroom assignments in real time. On top of that, Parent Portal also serves as a means for parents to get into direct contact with their child’s teacher.

The benefits and opportunities this can bring to a child’s academic engagement and success are various and important. By giving parents an easier and more accessible way to both monitor their child’s progress in a class and stay in touch with the specific teacher, Parent Portal allows for a more effective support system to remain in place during a child’s time in any classroom. Not only this, but by allowing parents and teachers to communicate professionally and effectively in a digital manner, the inconvenient school meetings and hard-to-reach educators of the past can also become an old reality. There also remain numerous possibilities for the expansion of Parent Portal services, notably the ability to transfer or post PDFs of student work and important documents directly to the platform for parents to view. As both remain critical parts of the classroom experience, despite the continued introduction of digital instructional methods and cloud computing innovations, the ability to work these things into the Parent Portal would serve as a further benefit of the service.

While the jury remains out on some of the potential negative consequences of cloud technologies like Parent Portal, the many benefits of this type of cloud-driven service in the education world can not be underestimated. As more and more of the typical practices of the 20th century classroom are adapted to technologies of the 21st century, it was only a matter of time before communications between teachers and parents became adapted as well. Technologies like Parent Portal, navigating the cloud to enhance the classroom environment, continue to remain a hotly debated topic among the academics.

By Adam Hausman

Grading Students In The Cloud

Grading Students In The Cloud

Grading Students in the Cloud

One of the most common characteristics of new cloud computing-driven innovations in education has been the transmission of traditional academic practices (tutoring, assignment collection, extra help meetings, etc.) into the new platforms and opportunities made available by the cloud. While it is easy to get swept up in the more interesting or flashy education innovations, the best new tools available to teachers by way of cloud computing are mostly 21st century versions of traditional practice in the classroom.

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With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that one of the newest and most popular trends in education-related cloud services has centered on grading and assessment. While no single practice or program has come to dominate the field as of yet, the unveiling and utilization of programs like Blackboard and Impact, which allow teachers to maintain grade books that can be actively updated and viewed by students, parents, and teachers alike, have become to change the way that student assessment is both viewed and enacted.

The implications, benefits, and potential pitfalls of this newest advancement in education technology are as numerous as they are exciting. The most obvious benefit to teachers moving their grading onto the cloud is the ability to access, manage, and update grades from multiple locations. Formerly encumbered, either by paper-based grading systems or network-linked grading systems that could not be accessed outside of school, teachers are now finding that the freedom to work on grading from any location can be a major relief. Aside from the need to make changes and updates with little to no advance warning, especially around deadlines, teachers can also keep parents informed actively on the progress (or lack thereof) that their children are making in the classroom. The old days of sending tests and quizzes home to get signed, or requiring busy parents to make time to come in and meet to discuss grades, are going quickly by the wayside as these new grading systems take hold in more and more school districts.

The issues that have unexpectedly have risen from the introduction of these new technologies are equally varied, and the full weight of taking this traditional academic process and moving it to the cloud is not yet fully understood. Teachers have always frequently lamented that their job never truly ends, and that the worries and concerns and needs of students and parents follow them home from their jobs on a daily basis. Now, with grading systems being updated actively on the cloud, and accessible in real-time to parents at home, teachers are beginning to find the demands on their time sometimes increase because of these technologies. While certainly open communication and dialogue between teachers, their students, and their parents are essential to academic progress and success, removing the barriers between teachers’ personal lives and time and the families they serve can also be a hindrance. Until these technologies have been rolled out in a greater array of school districts, it remains safe to assume that more benefits and issues will continue to emerge as the cloud finds its way further into the 21st century classroom.

By Adam Hausman

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

The Cloud Brings New Meaning To Office Hours, Teacher-Student Collaboration

The Cloud Brings New Meaning To Office Hours, Teacher-Student Collaboration

The Cloud Brings New Meaning To Office Hours, Teacher-Student Collaboration

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Any of us who spent four years of our life navigating the challenges and intricacies of undergraduate life know that office hours, those precious few minutes of your professor’s undivided attention and assistance, are a particularly rare and in-demand resource.  Standing on a long line of worried students, hoping to get your questions answered or your paper reviewed, and watching the clock tick down to the end of your scheduled time is a sensation that  should be very familiar to many former (and current) college students.  At the high school level, opportunities to meet 1-on-1 between teachers and students are further limited by the demands of a teenager’s schedule, as well as the limitations of a high school teacher’s availability.  As such, while office hours have long been a source of consternation and competition among college students, in the high school environment the possibility of holding office hours has long been only a dream for many teachers.

However, the advent of cloud computing in the classroom in a growing number of high schools across the country has led to a mini-revolution in how high school teachers can offer assistance and extra support for their students, without sacrificing more of the valuable personal time that comes so scarcely to teachers during the school year.  With cloud-driven services like Google Drive, but also lesser known education management systems like Canvas and Dyknow, teachers can now offer meetings via video chat, text, or collaborative document editing that allow for the extra help process to not require the physical presence of both collaborators.  The implications of this advance in education are myriad, and exciting.  One of the major issues facing urban teachers in particular is the limitations of their students, because of socioeconomic or family factors, to stay late or put in additional time outside of the normal school day.  While access to a reliable Internet connection is of course still a requirement for utilizing this new type of office hours, with smartphone ownership growing exponentially among high school students, the limitations to this type of collaboration in the urban classroom that seemed insurmountable even five years ago are now being broken down on a regular basis.

The other major advantage of utilizing cloud computing to expand support and informational services for students is in the relationships it can help to further develop between a teacher and their various learners.  College students know that building a personal connection with a professor (especially a particularly well-known or connected professor) can seem impossible in a class of four hundred students, without utilizing office hours.  With the introduction of office hours via cloud services, not only do more students have access to their teachers for support, but the ability to network and build connections for future employment or academic opportunities is equally important for students at both the high school and college level.  Cloud computing, much like it has in other academic areas, is bringing corporate best practices to a wide array of high school students, and teachers planning to introduce greater support systems for their students are being drawn more and more to the cloud computing option.

By Adam Hausman

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

TurnItIn: The Cloud Is Letting English Teachers Stay Ahead Of Their Students

TurnItIn: The Cloud Is Letting English Teachers Stay Ahead Of Their Students

TurnItIn: The Cloud Is Letting English Teachers Stay Ahead of Their Students

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Talk to any English teacher in any tech-focused high school in the U.S., and they will tell you that one of the essential components of their classroom is TurnItIn.com. Exactly what it sounds like, TurnItIn.com is a cloud computing-based site that lets teachers set up digital drop boxes for students to submit essays. But that’s just the beginning. Not only does TurnItIn automatically screen any student submitted essays for potential plagiarism and cribbed passages posted anywhere else on the web (from university sites and databases to news articles and transcripts), but the site has recently begun to work in more technology for teachers to give feedback, track revisions, and assign grades through the site itself.

Why is this a big deal? Mostly because, more than perhaps any other high school required subject, English classrooms have tended to lag behind their compatriots in science and math in using technology to incorporate innovative new lessons in the classroom. Part of this is the foundations of the subject; writing and reading still look to be the basic components of any high school English class for the future. However, student use of technology and their exposure to its incorporation in other classes has put pressure on English teachers to innovate their own material and methods of instruction, even if they have been established and proven for decades and even hundreds of years.

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The implications of the technology and options available through TurnItIn.com are just beginning to be understood, and as the site adds more functionality and responds more and more to user experiences and requests, the possibilities seem endless. Aside from allowing for removal of many of the organizational headaches that used to plague the research or thesis paper process (anyone remember trying to keep all their source note cards organized? Yuck), TurnItIn allows for an additional platform for students and teachers to connect, both inside and outside of the traditional high school classroom.

Many English teachers that have become to adapt their classes to TurnItIn have succeeded mainly in taking existing academic processes in the traditional classroom (discussions, reading responses, research papers, bibliographies) and updating them to meet the technology now available to them, for free. Many of the dangers of the Internet in the English classroom (using Cliff’s Notes, copying passages from other writers and publishing those thoughts as their own, deadline misses) can immediately be nullified and supported by TurnItIn.com.

Much like many other industries that have made the jump, English teachers are just beginning to tap the potential of how sites like TurnItIn.com can simplify and enhance many of the instructional and classroom management practices they put into place inside their classrooms on a daily basis. Aside from that, sites like TurnItIn allow users to take advantage of the technologies their students are becoming familiar with at young ages, instead of attempting to block them from the English classroom. Student engagement, responsibility, and organization are just some of the areas that English teachers hope to continue to improve as they continue to adapt cloud computing options like TurnItIn to their classrooms.

By Adam Hausman

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