How to Guide: VoIP Phone to document parent contact.

One of the things I hate doing most is trying to keep track of my parent contacts. The process of trying to record whenever I call them and what I talk about can be tedious. The point of this how to guide is to use an old cell phone that doesn’t have a cell phone plan, a Google Voice number, and an app called Groove Ip to set up a phone and a number that will automatically log your calls and give you the ability to add notes. The set up uses the Voice Over IP (VoIP), allowing you to do this without a cell phone plan. In order to use the phone, it will need an active wi-fi network at all times. This is a great way to re purpose an old Android phone you have sitting around collecting dust. I wouldn’t be surprise if there was a way to do this with an iPhone or iPod Touch (if heard of ways to do it), but I have not done it myself and don’t know the steps firsthand.

Step 1: Go to www.google.com/voice and log into your gmail account.

Step 2: Accept the terms and select “I want a new number”

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Step 3: Type in a forward a forwarding number. Google does this to verify you are in the United States.

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Step 4: Click call me now. Google will call you and enter in the code.

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Step 5: Select a number.

Step 6: Click the gear icon in the top right corner and select settings.

Step 7: Make sure the “Forward calls to: Google Chat:” is selected and uncheck the forwarding number you entered, otherwise you’ll both numbers will ring.

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Step 8: Assuming that your old phone has already had a factory reset and the phone is connected to a wi-fi network, do the initial set up using the Google account you logged into earlier.

Step 9: Go to the play market and download Groove Ip Lite App

Step 10: Sign into Groove Ip with the Google account you set up earlier. You will now be able to make phone calls using your Google Number

The next steps are to set up text messaging

Step 11: Download the Google Voice App.

Step 12: Log into Google Voice and select the phone number you used for your forwarding number for this set up.

Step 13: Select the option “Use Google Voice to make all calls”

Step 14: Skip the voicemail set up

Step 15: When you use the Google Voice App you can now compose text messages.

To add notes for call history.

On your desktop, when you are logged into Google.com/voice, on the left hand side you can see all your call history. Under the more option, you can add a note. I would use this option to record the purpose of the call.

Any questions or get stuck. Email me at howtoedtech@gmail.com

Power On!

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Review of Adobe Acrobat Standard X

So the application I loved using the most so far this year is Adobe Acrobat Standard X, and I’m sure the environment has loved it also. While I feel I have just scratched the surface of what it can do, it has made many things easier for myself.

So the first reason I would recommend using Adobe Acrobat Standard Software is its ability to edit PDFs. Often times, lesson plans are stored in PDF form as this is a more universal file type. The ability to at least open up and read a PDF is free if the person has Adobe Reader. Adobe Standard allows you to insert, extract, or delete pages from a PDF document. There have often been times when I find a lesson online and don’t want X pages from it. Adobe Acrobat gives me the ability to take those out of the file all together.

Another helpful tool with having a full version of Acrobat Standard is the ability to convert PDFs to word documents. Converting them to Word is useful as it allows you to edit specific parts of a document. For example, in my history classes I often use PDF documents from academic journals or archived documents. In a couple of my classes I have students with sight problems. With Adobe Standard, I can covert the document into a Word file and have the ability to increase the font so they are able to read it. Now while the ability to convert it to Word and edit is great, the process isn’t completely clean and neat. The conversion process sometimes breaks the document into odd sections or headers with odd breaks. If the document uses an increased font size at the beginning of paragraph (Illustrated Bible style), that one letter gets converted into an image instead of text. I would recommend if you do convert a document, save about 15-20 minutes to go through it to make sure it is formatted correctly.

My absolute favorite thing about having Adobe Standard is the ability to do forms. For this past semester my paper consumption has gone down drastically because of Adobe Forms. Using this in conjunction with Engrade, the online electronic grade book, my students complete their assignments on the computer or their personal mobile device and then turn it in electronically on Engrade. The benefit of this is that Engrade records the date and time the assignment was submitted. I no longer have to worry about students loosing papers or having to keep track of papers myself. The benefit of using Adobe Forms instead of just a usual Word document is that you can secure a form to prevent it from printing. I find this useful as students would try to print it off to turn it in, circumventing the timestamp on Engrade. There were some growing pains. First, students need to download the PDF to their computer first. Often students would open the document in their browser, complete the assignment in the browser and then try to save it. If done this way, the computer saves a blank document. Second, and I think this was exacerbated with my group of apathetic students in regards to reading directions, students had problems with the turn in function on Engrade. This really isn’t a complicated thing though and most students should be able to accomplish this. Again, plan to spend time practicing the process.  Last, and this one was on me, when securing the document so it can’t print, you need to go through a couple of steps to make sure it can be filled in and saved.

Overall I would highly endorse using Adobe Acrobat Standard. The student teacher edition is available for $119. My paper consumption has gone significantly down. My headaches of dealing with students turning in work, specifically late work, have decreased.  The students can use any device (Mac or PC) to complete work, so “I lost the paper” excuses don’t work.  Every kid with a smart phone, iPod Touch, iPad, laptop, or desktop computer can complete their work on their own device.

 

Power On!

 

Mobile Devices

Mobile Devices

Alright encouraging data shows that parents are willing to buy mobile devices for their children for educational purpose. A couple quick thoughts:

1. While parents are willing to buy the device, are schools willing to embrace the device. This is my fifth year teaching and here is the breakdown on my school’s stance on mobile device: First year/school #1 – mobile device market not yet applicable (yeah it’s already hard to imagine a time without smartphones). Second and Third year/school #2 – School originally had a no mobile device in the classroom policy that moved to a teacher by teacher basis by the time I left. Fourth and Fifth year/school #3 – School has a no cell phone policy. Though I have started to break that rule more and more.

2. I like the point that we need to make wise mobile users.

3. I worry about the 63% of parents who feel that a mobile device allow a student to express themselves. Well using the internet and social media to express themselves is good, we run into the lack of promoting real life social skills and slippery slope into internet (please excuse the language) dickwad theory (worse offensive language in the link).

4. Finally, teachers need to know what possibilities are out there with these devices.

What Does Technology in Education Look Like?

That is the billion dollar question. Actually, it’s the multi-billion dollar question. According to the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the non-hardware educational technology market is worth $7.5 billion. Throw in hardware, like NewsCorps Amplify tablet, and the educational technology market is through the roof. The problem is what the hell does it look like?

The best example I can give happened to me this year. While teaching my class on D.C. History, we were discussing home rule. (A quick background, Article I Section 8, Clause 17 gave Congress exclusive jurisdiction over Washington. Less then 15 years later, this issue became a problem for the people living in DC. They could not vote for President nor have a Representative in Congress. Basically, they had no say in the rules process). The students were given quotes from the early 1800’s and had to identify the author’s position and then analyze the author’s argument. The discussion was very lively with strong comparisons of D.C. government to the students’ lack of ability to affect rules in the school. My assistant principal was observing this lesson, and I thought I would receive rather high scores for the fantastic discussion.

In the debriefing, one critique she had was incorporating technology into the lesson. I responded that there was no need for technology in the lesson. Her response was that I could have put the quotes on a PowerPoint or something rather than just have the kids looking at a sheet of paper on their desk. I responded that that’s using PowerPoint for no apparent reason. We went back and forth on the topic. I ended up with not quite the review I had expected. When discussing the situation with my (also a teacher) wife, she thought I should have said pencil and paper is also a technology. Putting the quotes on a PowerPoint wouldn’t change or improve the content.

Too often I think people want teachers to use technology for flash and glitter. I’m in favor of practical application of technology. Cool graphics on a PowerPoint doesn’t make a lesson better. I want to use technology where it makes sense and actually improves the delivery and content of the lesson, not just to make something shiny.

The next era in Ed tech is going to be Learning Analytic software. While attending a Brookings Institute forum on the topic (where I think I was the only teacher in the room, but that is a discussion for another day), developers and education policy wonks discussed software that tracks mouse movement, clicks, and learning retention that could quantify when a student learns what subject best at what time of day. Hardware development is also expanding. The Amplify tablet is specifically marketed at the education market.

To a teacher in the classroom, all that is years down the line. Technology for a teacher today is programs like Adobe, Anki, Socrative, Google Apps, and others. Or capitalizing on smartphones in our students’ pockets, instead of just banning it like several schools I’ve worked for do. That’s what I mean when I think about technology in the classroom.

Power On!

The Beginnings

Welcome to the inaugural post of my blog How to Ed Tech. The purpose of this blog is to provide some real world reviews and guides to incorporating technology into the classroom. First, some background on myself and how I got here.

My technology passion started at a young age. I blame my father. He was a techie and we had a TI-99 computer. I remember playing Tunnels of Doom with him for hours. We then progressed to a Packard Bell 486, where I played 7th Guest with him for hours. Many hours later, I built my own computer when I was 16. When I turned 18, I got a job at my geek heaven, Fry’s Electronics. I worked there four 5 years as a returns associate fixing people’s computers when they didn’t know how to build them. I still think I can put together a computer blind folded. Today, I am an rather early adopter of tech toys. I have too many computers (at least according to my wife), tablets that run Android, iOS, and my personal favorite WebOS ( You gave up too early HP. You marketed the TouchPad wrong with too high of a price point). I also have numerous other tech gadgets, doodads, and widgets strewn about for projects I’m working on.

Concurrently during the geekery of my youth, I discovered my passion for history. Also during my youth, I served as the score keeper and assistant coach of the softball team at my middle school. It was during this time I learned about working with kids and teaching. So during my senior year in high school when I was contemplating what I wanted to do with my life, I decide to take my passion for history and put it to use as a teacher. I then attended Chandler-Gilbert Community College, followed by Arizona State University. During my time at ASU, I worked at a high school for students with emotional disabilities and wasn’t scared away from the profession.

My next education job led me to a teaching position in Phoenix, where the technology offerings were limited. During this time, I used my Nokia 8800 phone to control my PowerPoint. My students thought that was crazy. I then proceeded to get married and moved to Winslow, AZ. At this stop, my computer expertise was utilized extensively. I had a SMART Board. Our school also implemented PowerSchool. On top of that I was the stopgap IT guy that teachers came to to troubleshoot their technology. Towards the end of my second year there, there was talk about creating a position to do basically what I was doing half the time, training teachers about technology. I WANTED THAT JOB! (Un)Fortunately though, my wife was accepted to Georgetown University. So we packed up, moved to the DC area, and I started teaching with DCPS.

Now that our time in DC is up, we are considering moving which brought another job search. I also discovered the title of my dream job, Academic Technology Specialist. Not the IT guy, but the guy who shows you how to use your SMART Board, use your iPad, or other cool tech gadgets. The drawback for me though, I don’t have any technology credentials other than the experience I have using it in the classroom. When I sat down though and thought about all my ideas I’ve done or would like to do with technology in my classroom, the more I want to be an Academic Tech Specialist. So the other reason for this blog is for some school district to take a chance on me.

So proceeding forward, I plan to talk about things I’ve done, with reviews and how to guides, hypothetical ideas that I haven’t tried yet, cool websites and other social media things to follow, and possible other philosophical musings about the state of education, board games, philosophy, the mismanagement of bullpens, the possibility of the 4 man rotation, and other things. But mostly tech stuff. Teachers, I don’t claim to know everything but if you had questions you want to pose or if there are things you have done with tech in your classrooms please email howtoedtech@gmail.com So my first review should be up in a couple days: Adobe Standard X and the possibilities it opens in your classroom.

Power On!