Friday, January 27, 2017

Teacher Tech Tip: Microphone and Camera Access

Once upon a time...

This post makes me nostalgic of my early days as a technology coach at East Noble School Corporation. We had just adopted iPads as our device of choice to put in the hands of every student. Lots of cool apps were coming out that allowed you to create cool recordings and flashy videos. Whenever a student accessed an app that required microphone or camera access, the iPad would pop up with a box. These boxes caused some panic as students would deny access to their camera or microphone left and right. This brought these fun technology projects to a screeching halt. So I quickly made a video to send out to staff so that they can go into the settings and fix the problem if a student made such mistake. 

Now that I'm in a Chromebook school district (MSD of Steuben County), we are having the same issue. Students don't do it on purpose. When a box pops up on the screen, they aren't actually reading what it has to say. Instead, they take their chances and choose either "allow" or "block" when a website wants to access their camera or microphone.
Please click allow

So if you have a student that is in Google Slides and they can't take a picture with their camera, this might be why. If your student cannot voice type in Google Docs, they may have clicked on block when the white box appears. The following video demonstrates how to resolve the issue. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Google Classroom Differentiated Assignments

January 2017 Update

Google recently updated Google Classroom with a feature that has been much needed. One of the most common questions I get when training teachers on Google Classroom is what to do about differentiated/personalized instruction. In the past, I've recommended to those teachers that if they want to differentiate they will either need to create separate classrooms for each group or use a consistent title for the assignments when dealing with groups of students. The problem with that theory is that groups are often ever changing. As teachers continue to assess, students will continue to shift around in learning experiences/expectations. Within the last year, the edition of topics helped with that issue as the teacher could then at least categorize posts. The students could then click on the topic in order to see only the stream of what pertained to their group. Regardless, Classroom didn't seem to be the friendliest to the differentiated teacher. 

With this update, questions, announcements, and assignments can be pushed out to selected students instead of the entire class. This is great in the instance that you need to provide special instruction for various students, and yet the teacher does not have to switch from Classroom to Classroom as it is all contained in his/her Stream. Along with the feature to be able to select students, I recommend using the topics feature because it would allow the teacher to quickly filter through Google Classroom from the groups he/she has created. Using topics to quickly select is much more time efficient than creating separate Google Classrooms and switching between them. 

What's in the Video?

In the video, I demonstrate how to utilizing the tool to select specific students in an assignment. I also demonstrate how to organize collaborative groups with it along side using the topics feature. Being able to select students aids in organizing collaborative experiences as Google Classroom will not be near as crowded with extra information in the Stream. 

I hope you find this demonstration helpful. Let me know if you have questions in the comments box. 

Google Classroom Guide

I went ahead and updated my Google Classroom Guide with my update. If you need video resources on how to use Google Classroom, you can find them here. I attempt to update it regularly. There is quite a bit of content on it and some of it is of older versions of Google Classroom. I apologize if some materials do not appear exactly the same. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Tinkercad and Polar 3D

Creation is Key

Amy Heavin, Principal at Ryan Park Elementary, had a vision. She has been inspired to build a maker-space for the staff and students. She wants to cultivate thinkers and problem solvers. She's building a creative culture within her school. This process started during the 2015-2016 school year as Amy has quite a few fun tools available for her students to try. Kids are programming Spheros, building with Legos, and creating contraptions with Little Bits.

Before this year started, Amy contacted me about another tool she added to her collection; she purchased a Polar 3D. 3D printing has been around for quite some time, but here in more recent years, it has become extremely affordable. She purchased the Polar 3D mainly because it was in her price range and those that had purchased it had pretty good reviews. Ultimately, she was looking to provide students with the experience of being able to create solutions to problems. The Polar 3D provides a good starting point for students to achieve her goals.

I don't have a lot of experience with other models of 3D printers, but this one is fairly easy to set up. They provide video tutorials to walk you through the process and it also works via WiFi. So teachers can see if it is being used via the device's webcam and send print files without having to be in the presence of the Printer.

So is 3D printing merely a fad? I don't think so. Because of 3D printing measurement, area, and volume can come to life. Students can look at a situation where a problem needs to be solved and not rely on a manufacturer to build the parts they need. 3D printing will be the future for us all as we can fabricate the parts we need in the convenience of our home. That's a powerful thought as I look at all the things I want to do in my home in regard to home improvement projects. Things break and wear away. What If I could design my own replacements instead of wondering if the manufacturer still has the part I need available at a decent price?


To create these 3D printer files, Ryan Park Elementary is using Tinkercad. It is easy to use and teachers can create classes to keep track of student progress. They provide quite a few lessons and project starts to get students oriented with the tools. Just like any digital resource, there is a learning curve in order to be able to work efficiently and effectively. Allowing students to "tinker" with it awhile and try some of the lessons first will be beneficial when project time comes. So when you want to propose a problem for the students to solve, Tinkercad will not cause the frustrations and get in the way of completing the project. This should really be the rule with any tech tool. If you throw a brand new tool as students and then expect them to magically create a masterpiece, you will be disappointed and the students will be frustrated. 

Video Resources

Amy asked me to build some resources for her staff, but I'm sharing them here as well. She wanted me to put together some videos to help with the Polar Cloud and Tinkercad process so that her teachers could access them when they are ready to jump into the world of 3D printing. I have a playlist from YouTube setup that goes through how to create your Tinkercad account, get students connected, setup your Polar Cloud account, and how to print STL files (3D print file format). If you are not using a Polar 3D printer but want to get started using Tinkercad, you can still use some of these resources to get you started with creating your classroom account.