Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tech Integration Barrington 220 Elementary Classrooms (VIDEOS)

I had the opportunity to visit two elementary classes in two buildings recently, Heather Crandall’s Grade 2 class at Barbara Rose Elementary and Ted deBruin’s Grade 4 class at Arnett C. Lines Elementary.

During my visit, Heather Crandall's Grade 2 students were using iPads as part of their classroom "centers" for the day. As Ms. Crandall explained, when she selects potential activity center choices for her students, "it always starts at a need," such as spelling or reading.

Among the four students who selected iPads on this day, one student played a hangman-like game called Hangmouse (part of the SpellingCity app), a game to target the need for spelling practice.

Three other students used the Raz-Kids app, an online digital library with reading comprehension questions following each story. Using Raz-Kids, students log in to a pre-established classroom account and select from among an impressive library of age-appropriate electronic books (ebooks). Students read on-screen text and may also choose to follow along with the accompanying audiobook. After students correctly answer questions following each story, the app awards tokens students use to “purchase” accessories to customize the look of a robot who lives within the Raz-Kids app.

This video features Jack demonstrating SpellingCity’s Hangmouse and Sarah explaining some of the features of Raz-Kids:

I also had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Ted deBruin’s Grade 4 class. During class time, the students were creating maps on large sheets of paper corresponding to the origins of indigenous peoples of North America. Students used the Google Earth app to identify land features such as lakes, rivers, and mountain ranges, and also found cities and towns that now exist where indigenous groups once lived. For this project, students used both iPads and print books to construct their maps.

Mr. deBruin also shared a recently completed project in which students used iPads to create videos to demonstrate their knowledge of figurative language. Students used the app Chatter Pix to animate hand-drawn cartoons and demonstrate figurative language such as personification. Other students used the Do Ink app to demonstrate figurative language such as alliteration and hyperbole. Do Ink allows students to record video in front of a solid green background (also known as “green screen”) and then later substitute an image (or another video) in place of the green background.

This video features Madison introducing the figurative language assignment:

Infinite Campus Preparations Begin for 2015-2016

Welcome to year 4 of Infinite Campus! It is time to prepare the Infinite Campus system for the 2015-2016 school year. One major preparation item is increasing the IC hardware capacity. IC systems engineers have been working with the Barrington 220 tech team for several weeks in preparation for a server upgrade. Please be aware that a brief interruption of access to IC will occur at the end of the school day on Friday, November 14, 2014, as the final upgrade steps are completed.  

IC 2015-2016 calendars for Barrington High School summer school and BHS will be created early next week.  Existing students in Grades 8-11 will have 2015-2016 BHS enrollment records created, allowing counselors to begin the process of creating schedules for the coming school year. IC calendars and 2015-2016 enrollment records for middle schools will be created in January 2015 followed by elementary enrollment records in April 2015.

The Case of the Missing Google Storage Limits

Since sometime last week, you may have noticed a subtle change in the Google Drive interface. Way down in the lower-left corner, Google Drive used to report how much space you were using of a 30GB limit. Now, Google Drive only reports how much space you have used:

The reason for this change is that Google is now giving Google Apps for Education users unlimited storage in our accounts. In a recent communication from Google, they reported:
"Starting last week, all Google Apps for Education users now have free, unlimited storage for any file type in Drive. No more worrying about hitting your quota or deleting files to free up space."
Thanks, Google. Case closed.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam...

Monty Python was a hit back when their off-beat style of humor was first introduced to the US. For my friends and me, it was a Sunday night ritual to catch the program on the local PBS station. They had one particular little skit about a local restaurant that included the canned meat "Spam" in every menu item. That one little skit gave the word Spam a whole new meaning years later as junk email is now commonly referred to as spam.

The technical terms for the junk email messages that hit your various email accounts are "Unsolicited Commercial Email" (UCE) or "Unsolicited Bulk Email" (UBE). Regardless of what it is called, it is annoying and can be used by the senders for nefarious purposes.

I had a few reports last week from users seeing some of these spam messages in their inboxes so I thought it may be worthwhile to provide a bit of information.

Here is a recent peak at one of our email message filters, which by the way is one of the best available filters world-wide: 

In an eight-day period, this filter looked at over 1,200,000 incoming messages to On average, for every one legitimate message that you received in your Barrington 220 inbox, we threw out nine messages. I have seen these figures go as high as 97.5% blocked messages in past years.

Thanks to the email message filtering system we use, many of our staff members rarely see a junk email message. Others see them on a more regular basis. Why the difference, and what steps can be taken to prevent spam messages? Here are a few tips…

  1. Use your email address for work-related messages only.
  2. Watch the “check boxes.” Many websites have an enrollment process to get deeper into the website. At the bottom of these forms is usually a check box which, when agreeing to it, allows the host of the site, and possibly others, to provide you with email messages. Are you signing up to a legitimate website? Is it work-related? Did you read the "fine print" and did you uncheck the "send me tons of email" box?
  3. Do not reply to a spam message if you receive one. Doing so makes your email address more valuable to spammers as they now know it is an active account.
  4. Do not use the "unsubscribe" feature on a spam email message for the exact same reason. By all means, use the "unsubscribe" button from legitimate companies if you no longer wish to receive email messages from them. If Kohl’s is sending you coupons and sale information weekly, you can unsubscribe without worries.
  5. It is best not to open an unsolicited message, however if you do open such a message do not click on the links or attachments. At worse you may introduce a virus to your computer and at best, you just let the “spammers” know that you have an active account.
  6. Be careful with your email address. Be cautious when you provide it online.
  7. Avoid including your email address when posting on a forum or blog. Forums or blogs are great places for spammers to “harvest” email addresses.
  8. Lastly, please do not feel obligated to send the junk mail to technology staff members. We also receive spam from spammers.
Usually, I see an ebb and flow with junk mail. If you tend to get a bit of junk mail now, it will usually subside if you do not respond. Spammers are always looking for active accounts and will drop yours if they think it is "dead." In addition, our email filtering system, which is updated daily, will typically pick up on the new tactics that are being used by spammers in attempts to avoid the filters.

I’d like to end this story by noting, “welcome to messaging in the modern age,” but that would be too simplistic. If we look at the habits of our Barrington 220 students, they will likely tell you in so many words that to them, email is obsolete and too slow. They have little use for it. Consider asking your students which digital communication methods they use most regularly as you design or refine your classroom communication plans.

Just Google It...or Not

In a recent meeting with district librarians, conversations centered around the topic of the many subscription services we have available to our school community. We all have an understanding that "just Google it" is a part of student's vernacular from early on and know its transformative power. Students have access to information anywhere, anytime. As a team of professionals trained in helping students and teachers become information literate and research ready, we also realize this level of access must be accompanied by sound educational practices that help students make good decisions about the sources they are citing and utilizing.

The video below, prepared by a Yavapai College in Prescott Arizona student, explains the benefits of using library databases for research over searching the web.

Librarians are here to partner, assist, and help teachers place the best source of information at the student's fingertips. At Barrington High School, the databases we use are listed here. All resources are available to students on and off campus. Our middle schools and elementary schools provide similar services, on a scale and at a level that meets the needs of our learners. As curriculum teams look for ways to support students, your building librarians can be an important element to unlocking many new resources. If you have specific needs or suggestions for databases or tools, we are happy to gather your input as well by contacting the librarian in your building or reaching out to me:

LeeAnn Taylor
Director of Media Services

All Atwitter in Barrington 220 (VIDEO)

At first glance, Twitter seems to be about glimpses into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. The current top Twitter accounts include Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. But for educators, Twitter allows unparalleled connections among educational experts, resources, and colleagues.

Twitter functions in two ways: as a feed of information from a customizable list of Twitter accounts (think sharp educators like Rick Wormeli, strong systems like Google Apps for Education, and emerging colleagues like Tim O'Connor) and as a highly efficient search engine.

Adding Twitter to my reservoir of educational resources transformed how I operate. Twitter is the single-most important tool I have used to stay current in my practice and to develop as a professional.

Please consult our District 220 Twitter PD Google Doc to learn more about:

  • Why Use Twitter
  • How to Make an Account
  • Twitter Handles of BSD Staff
  • Twitter Handles of Content-Specific Experts
  • #s to Checkout 
  • Twitter Apps to Checkout
  • Curation Tools 
  • Twitter Resources

  • Seeking District Technology Committee Members

    We are seeking interested Barrington 220 educators to form a District Technology Committee. The committee will meet monthly to discuss a variety of district-level technology issues related to instructional technology integration. Members of the committee will serve as representatives for their buildings and/or departments, report issues to the committee, report back to buildings and/or departments, and participate in current and future instructional technology decision making.

    If you are interested in applying to be a part of this committee, please visit the District Technology Committee website. The site provides additional details about the committee and includes a link to apply:

    Please apply by Friday, November 25, 2014.

    Thank you for your interest!

    Summer Tech Support In...and Out...of Barrington 220

    Although our current weather may not belie this, summer is, indeed, coming! I just wanted to take a moment to remind you that our tech sup...