In The Cloud: Google Docs and Haiku LMS

We’re two full weeks into the school year here in the South. Its been time enough to start springing new procedures onto the kids. This year, we’ve integrated Google Apps with our LMS (Haiku). This week I went paperless with my declension charts. I turned a chart into a Google Doc and then shared it with my students as view only. I then showed them how to make a copy of the document so that they can edit it. Haiku provides an online dropbox for assignments and has integrated with Google docs. The students, after declining, submitted their documents. Haiku copied them as pdfs. The students still have access to a blank chart whenever they need it and have the option to print if they’d prefer, but now they have the option to type their answers as well. There’s the added bonus that if their computer is out for repair, they not only have access to the blank charts, but any that they’ve completed and kept. While some students want to write out the declensions, most were pretty happy with the new workflow.

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Embedding Multiple Google Calendars Into A Google Site

Wow, just wow.

I have spent the better part of today working on embedding multiple google calendars into one public, display calendar. Actually, getting the calendars together wasn’t the problem. I got some great advice from He has clear explanations and pictures with arrows (always a plus when learning how to do something). The issue was embedding the calendar into a google site AND GETTING IT TO DISPLAY CORRECTLY.

First Attempt:

  • Follow directions to get code for multiple calendars.
  • Open Google site.
  • Click on Edit, then Html.
  • Paste Code

This fails. All of the calendars display, but none of the navigation I selected does. The html refuses to update. So I mess with the widget itself.

Second Attempt:

  • Go back into Edit mode.
  • Click on the calendar.
  • Click on the gear to pull up the widget settings.
  • Add in the options I want from the checklist.

This works for everything but showing the list of calendars. Multiple Google searches later still reveal no help for this. So I decide to try and simply insert the calendar directly from the Insert menu.

Third Attempt:

  • Go into Edit mode.
  • Click on Insert and choose Calendar

This allows you to add one calendar, not multiple ones. In other words, this is a bust. Then I start looking through the different Google Gadgets, since from my extensive Google research on this topic, I ran across something about using the gadgets.

Fourth Attempt:

  • Go into Edit mode.
  • Click on Insert and choose More Gadgets.

Then I noticed that the code I had inserted changed from <iframe src…> to <img src…>. So I decided to look through the other gadgets to see if any of them would help. I tried using the iframe tool (since the html code is iframe). This doesn’t work, in fact nothing shows up from it. I tried the calendar gadget, but this results in embedding all of my personal calendars. Finally, I found the Embed gadget (below the Google Wave gadget, which tells you how often these are updated). This works beautifully. Here’s the workflow:

Final Attempt:

  • Go to Edit mode
  • Choose Insert > More Gadgets
  • Scroll down to the Embed Gadget
  • Paste the code received from Google Calendar
  • Save

I’m not certain why it isn’t easier for these parts of the the Google empire to talk with each other and really it shouldn’t take half a day to figure this out. I do hope this helps other people out there.

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Roman Marketing

So its the end of the school year. It has been quite a whirlwind. The end of the year for me brings a major Latin project that uses a hefty dose of technology. At the end of Level I every year, we hold a Roman Market. This is a huge, multi-faceted project. The students research products that would be available during the 2nd Century CE. Then they create a commercial in Latin selling their product. The students use Keynote or iMovie for their commercials.

I try to build in a lot of scaffolding for this project. Before the students are allowed to begin filming, they must turn in a script and a storyboard. This leads to a lesson on storyboarding. Pages has a pretty good storyboard template and I think Word does as well. A storyboard is important, especially for middle school students, to organize ideas and help them to gain a clear vision of their commercial.

After the script and storyboard, students get an iMovie tutorial. They get a basic overview of the program’s layout and the main tools they’ll need to use (titles, transitions, photos, music). The students are required to speak in Latin, but use English subtitles.

The final part of the project is to actually run a stall and “sell” their product. The commercials run on a loop during market day and we invite the entire school to come by. I supply “coins” (laminated sestertii) so that the students can shop. Products range from food (authentic recipes) to weapons.

Over the years, the Roman Market has grown wildly successful. The main complaint from the students is that they don’t make any real money.

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Best Intentions

So that weekly update thing turned out really well…

School started this week and with it my year of experimentation. I’m going to try and flip my classroom. When I said this to the kids, I got the usual looks of confusion, which I had to cut off by saying, “No, I’m not super-gluing your desks to the ceiling.” Here’s what I want to do: I want to give students the information piece of class as homework and move the application piece into the classroom.

So that last part was written a week and a half ago. The whirlwind that is the beginning of the school year is truly in full swing. I’m back to 9 and half/10 hour days. So far though, the reverse instruction is going well, when I can do it.

Last week was review week, so this week we’re actually beginning instructions. Reverse instruction for review allowed all the kids to work at their own pace and also let me see how they worked and where they needed more support. It was good, but I don’t want class to turn into worksheet time so I’m working to build in more meaningful activities when I have them. We’ll still have worksheets, but maybe not so many.

This week, I find myself treading water in getting everything posted on time. Generally speaking, I have a video to go along with a concept reading, so even if I post a video late, the student still have a way to get the concept before class the next day. Currently, I’m looking forward to the long weekend to, what else, catch up on work.

This week also ends my online course on blended learning. Its been a busy couple of weeks.

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Its Backwards Design, Charlie Brown!

This must be the year for looking backwards. In preplanning next week, we’ll be having some RBT training, again (to be fair, the last time was about 5 years ago). The OSG class I’m about to start on blended learning has a strong backwards design component. Did I mention classes start in a week and a half? Just throwing that out there as well.

A few definitions may be in order. Backwards design is simply designing a course with a goal in mind and working backwards. From a theoretical standpoint, it makes perfect sense. Choose your destination, map out how you want to get there. When you’re in the thick of things with multiple preps and grades due, its easily the furthest thing from your mind. Possibly because you’ve had to take detours from your roadmap. We all do it. We plan out our courses for the quarter, semester, or even year. We figure out what content we want to cover, what we want to kids to leave knowing and plot out activities and assessments. But reality is messy, REALLY messy.

Backwards design provides a framework for creating units and meaningful content, but it often frustrates me. I’ve worked with backwards design templates off and on for a few years, the main point of them is to achieve a BIG GOAL. Your takeaway can’t be: Students will understand the Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, and Ablative cases. It needs to be grander, more like: Students will understand the internal logic of language and how it reflects its culture (feel free to use that if it helps any). Often it feels like you put more energy into fitting into this mold than you do actually planning for class, because it forces you to change your perception from “What do I need to get through this year?” to “What do I want my students to remember at the end of this year?” At the same time, you still need to cover the material you need to cover. In backwards design, learning and applying skills facilitate the answering of the big question and so they must be taught as well. In the above example, I still need to teach kids cases in Latin but not teach them simply for the sake of being taught.

I suppose part of the idea is that you do a lot of preparatory work and avoid the “what am I doing in class today?” panic attack. But in the past I’ve found the initial process so cumbersome and frustrating, that I can rarely get to that promised nirvana. Maybe this time will be different.

So I’m a little hesitant as I embark on my backwards journey. I am looking to the ever-nearing future with trepidation and wonder, “When am I going to have time to plan all 6 of my classes AND work on these units AND incorporate the new material I’m learning?” The school year already seems overwhelming, and it hasn’t even begun.

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Data Import

I hate data import. How can something that is supposed to make lives so much easier, more productive, and convenient be such a hassle? I spent easily 3 hours today just working on importing data. I do understand that every i needs to be dotted and t crossed and everything needs to be exactly the way it is in the database or there will be anarchy. But really, do you need to add insult to injury by telling me that these mistakes have caused my file validation to fail? There aren’t sections I need to fix or highlighted errors, just FAIL.

The 8 steps of data importing:

1. Creation: After tireless hours of data collection and organization, reading and rereading the layout specifications, furious cutting and pasting into specific columns, you finally save the file as a .csv, because no other format will do.

2. Upload: This tense time while you try to work on other projects while your file uploads and you await the verdict. But really, you keep refreshing the page to see if your file has completed yet.

3. Amending: So there are a few errors you overlooked. Thank you, file validator, for looking over the work and finding them.

4. Anger: What do you mean ID not found?!? I copied it straight from the file layout! Repressing the urge to throw the computer against the wall and/or post unsavory comments on the company’s website.

5. Questioning: What does all this mean? Why isn’t it listed in the help on the site? Beginning to talk out loud to the computer, much to the confusion and fear of co-workers.

6. Bargaining: Do you want more ID numbers? I can find more ID numbers? I’ll get rid of all the spaces too! I’ll do anything you want, just validate the file! The co-workers are beginning to find reasons to stay far away from you now. You’re up to ten or more revisions of the file.

7. Depression: I’m a failure at life, I can’t figure out a simple spreadsheet. Openly weeping in public really solves nothing.

8. Acceptance: Either you’ve finally fixed every error imaginable and the program happily accepts your offering, after which you skip gaily through the halls at work, forcing co-workers to give you an even wider berth, or you’ve accepted the fact that something is very wrong with the file and have accepted the fact that you must call support. Meekly, you pick up the phone, listen to the hold muzak, and await the inevitably stupid little thing you forgot to include.

Today, acceptance was both fixing the file and realizing that the program wasn’t built to handle that sort of import, I’ll have to do it manually.

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As tends to happen, second semester blew by in a flurry of classes, grades, and activities, leaving me with little time to reflect. So here we are at the end of June about to plan with the best of intentions. This summer is packed with work on both the Latin and technology sides.

So far, I have gone through the iLife ’11 training book and learned all of the new tips and tricks for the upgrades to the program. I was surprised that Apple has stopped issuing certifications for iLife however. I’m currently teaching myself Flash. I’m not terribly thrilled with the book however. I’m using Learning Flash CS4. I’ve found some errors, which are not in the website Errata section, and troubleshooting is really left to the user. While they’ve provided the files so you can compare your work, it really doesn’t help if your project is not working correctly. Most of the files are actually a few steps ahead of the user in the book. I’ve found extra ActionScript that I wasn’t instructed to use. So far, I’ve been able to figure out everything I do wrong in the steps and fix it correctly, but it wastes a lot of time and makes working with the project frustrating.

Other responsibilities include updating the website. We do a massive overhaul of information every sumer, which is not surprising for a school. Currently waiting on the changes, but while waiting, I took care of a lot of back door stuff. I rolled over the school year and updated a lot of the database. I also started training other employees on updating parts of the site and modules we have.

More training takes place next week, when I help train teachers on Haiku and other tools (iMovie, Evernote, Dropbox…) to help teachers and classes. We have optional training sessions in June and July for those. In August, I start my “official” professional development. I’m taking a class on intermediate to advanced Bended Learning from the Online School for Girls. I’m worried about the timing of that. Here in the south, our start dates are creeping ever closer to August 1st. Our pre-planning starts the week of 8th and my class starts on the 6th. Effectively, I’ll be taking a class while teaching. Ah well, you know what they say about giving work to the busy person…

On the Latin side, I’ve decided to switch my textbook to Latin for the New Millenium. I’m really enjoying the wealth of support and materials. I’ve even taken a webinar to get the creative juices flowing. I am very excited about the format. I’m worried about transitioning my level IIs. Switching books means that I need to plan for some coverage in the first quarter. I’ve already gone through and identified the material I need teach, now I just need to gather the resources and plan out their year. Levels I and III are each starting right off with the new book, so pacing is the biggest challenge for them. Level IV is staying with Excelability for the first semester, but I’ll be adding readings from Eutropius  and latin poetry instead of the relying on the selections in Excelability. I feel that my students need more experience with authentic prose and the feedback I got from last year’s level IV was positive about the excerpts from poetry we read and feeling of frustration from the Excelability reading sections. Second semester remains Ovid, the Amores and the Metamorphoses. Level I-B is staying with Ecce Romani, mostly due to their ages (7th grade) and that they’ve already purchased the entire level I workbook. This may make for some headaches next year when these kids are in level II, but in true Scarlett O’Hara fashion, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

All in all, a busy summer. I am determined, however, to keep reflecting at least once week from this point on.

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