3 Steps to Leverage Technology for Language Learners

Image Source: http://goo.gl/yE4tUD


Technology can change the way students communicate in the classroom. It can create new patterns of discourse. 

Looking for some ways to leverage technology to enhance dual language instruction? While the first impulse may be to buy content that has technology components, often materials aren’t readily available for purchase. District and campus staff can leverage technology to enhance dual language instruction by using it to create content, facilitate communication between classes, and, then, facilitate sharing.

Some ways to leverage technology include the following:
  1. Students and teachers can use digital devices as tools for authentic communication and for accomplishing intellectually challenging, nonremedial tasks in the context of culturally appropriate whole activities. 
  2. Students can use technology to produce theme-centered, multimedia slide shows, electronic hypermedia books, and publish their poetry and written pieces. 
  3. Students can use technology to graph real life data and explore–with audio recordings–the relationships between data and their graphical representations.
  4. Students begin to learn the words for the graphics they wish to incorporate in their slide show, as well as the processes of modifying, saving and retrieving their work. Students learn to interweave audio narration using the microphone on their digital device, with some experimenting in the target language by reading or translating their work


Here are 3 easy steps you can follow in any classroom, but especially, a language learning class:

Step 1 – Create Content:

The tools for creating content have never been easier to use. Consider the following:
  • Narrated Audio Slideshows  – (read more)
  • Create eBooks – Students can create ebooks that incorporate audio, video, and text. (read more)
    • On iPad/Android tablets, use Book Creator app ($4.99)
    • On Chromebook and/or laptops/desktop computers, create ebook with GoogleDocs and/or LibreOffice, respectively.
  • Digital Storytelling - Students can approach storytelling from two perspectives – oral composition or written composition. Remember digital storytelling approach can be used for any content area, not just text. And students reading peers’ context while listening to audio is powerful and supported in the research.
    • Oral Storytelling – Focus is on audio recording. Take pictures and then add audio narration. Or, simply record audio of a child’s story, then have them prepare text to match it.
    • Written Composition Approach – Students write a script, match pictures to main events in the script, then narrate it, combining all the components into a narrated slideshow.
    Step 2 – Publish Content
    If your district doesn’t have an its own online space where staff and students can publish video, audio and images, you can take advantage of GoogleApps for Education with its unlimited storage to house content and/or YouTube. There really isn’t any reason why you can’t share content with a global audience!

    Step 3 – Share, Share, Share
    Once content is shared online, consider creating a district clearinghouse for awesome content in a GoogleSite (web site). This can be organized by grade level, reading level, etc.

    Conclusion
    The main benefit of these 3 steps is that it removes the some of the pressure of finding dual language materials, and instead helps students and staff create content that is relevant, appropriate, and engaging, while building on students’ key learning experiences. 


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    When You Fall Out of "the Box"

    What’s it take for you to think “out of the box?” For me, it’s the juxtaposition of two ideas (or activities) that force me to compare something I hadn’t previously considered. It happened to me yesterday and I keep having that “V8 moment” when you slap your hand to your forehead and say, Why didn’t I think of this sooner? 

    Image Source: http://goo.gl/vEa5Oy

    While I often think of screencasting to showcase how to use technology in instructional settings, I found myself stepping over the imaginary boundaries of screencast usage yesterday. I know, it wasn’t that big of a step but mentally, it was. That bothered me because I should have thought of how to use screencasting to showcase for Transportation staff how to accomplish a simple thing–using GreenShot snapshot program on Windows to capture a screen then print it.

    Here’s my write-up on the situation, which featured two people involved. I suppose what was pretty “duh!” for me was, “Why didn’t I think of using Screencastify to do this for non-instructional staff earlier?”

    With that in mind, a new question I’m asking myself is, “How can you use screencasting in situations other than what you’ve typically used it for?”

    And, in fact, how can I use technology in my role as a tech director in ways I haven’t imagined before? For me, that’s “out of the box” thinking.

    1. Find two disparate ideas or ways of doing cognitively different tasks and then put them next to each other. What does one way of doing things teach you about accomplishing the other?
    2. While working on one task, switch to another. Is there a way you can do the new, unrelated task similar to the way you did the first?
    3. Be open to possibilities via your professional learning network (PLN). How are they doing things that you can push yourself to try?

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    MyScratchNotes: Screencasting Linux on #Chromebook

    Next week, we’ll be giving out laptops–considered obsolete in school settings, but that work fine with a copy of LubuntuLinux running on them–to students. After giving a quick tour of Lubuntu on the laptops, I suddenly had 6 “how to” videos to create. Of course, I could have made the videos on a Lubuntu laptop but I wondered, What if you installed Lubuntu on your Chromebook, then made the videos there? Could I use something like Screencastify (which has “picture in a picture,” BTW) to get the job done?

    Naturally, the question going around in my head required some fun experimentation. As you might guess from the picture below, yes, it worked.

    Running LXDE on an Acer C720 Chromebook

    Although I’ve loaded GNU/Linux on a Chromebook twice before, I have to admit that this was the easiest and most pain-free. That is due in large part to the instructions provided online here, and which I’ve customized below (these are my scratch notes)…the customization involves LXDE in lieu of KDE or XFCE (neither of which I like much) AND loading the right audio drivers to ensure I can record.

    Read the OriginalHow to Easily Install Ubuntu on Chromebook with Crouton | Linux.com

    As mentioned in the article above, one of the main benefits:

    Some of the advantages of Crouton are that unlike other methods, you don’t have to reboot your machine to switch operating systems; you can switch between them using keyboard shortcuts as if you are switching between two apps.

    Here are the relevant excerpts that I followed…again, you may want to read the whole thing. These are just my notes should I have to go through this again.

    Part 1 – Install Ubuntu with LXDE GUI interface on Chromebook with Crouton

    1. “Install Chromebook recovery utility from the Chrome web store. Open the app and follow the instructions to create a recovery drive.” This is an important step in case you mess it all up.

    2. Enable the developer mode by holding Esc + Refresh keys and then push the ‘power’ button. The recovery screen will show a scary warning. Just ignore it and let Chrome OS wipe your data. The process can take up to 15 minutes, so don’t turn off your Chromebook.

    3. Log into your Chromebook and open the GitHub page of Crouton and download the latest script.

    Check the download folder to see if crouton is downloaded.

    4- Open the terminal in Chromebook  by hitting Alt+Ctrl+t

    5 -Type this command to open shell: shell

    6 – Install Ubuntu with LXDE GUI (the -e option will encrypt your drive, which is good)

    sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t lxde

    This process will take about 15-20 minutes depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

    7 – Type sudo startlxde
    This will start LXDE GUI interface to Linux.

    8 – Update Your Linux installation. At the command line (Go to the START button in the bottom left-hand corner, then Accessories, then LXTerminal), type the following, pressing ENTER after each command:

    (precise)mg@localhost:~$ sudo apt-get update

    Then…

    (precise)mg@localhost:~$ sudo apt-get upgrade

    9 – Install your favorite apps…here are a few of my favorites:

    (precise)mg@localhost:~$ sudo apt-get install shutter firefox keepassx mc 

    Of course, you don’t have to install these programs at all. I usually also install Google Chrome browser, and Dropbox.

    Part 2 – Setup Audio
    One of the things I noticed when I installed Screencastify in GoogleChrome on Linux on Chromebook was that the microphone wasn’t detected. To get it working, I followed these steps at the Terminal (LXTerminal):

    1 – Install pulseaudio

    sudo apt-get install pulseaudio

    2 – Install pavucontrol and pavumeter

    sudo apt-get install pavucontrol pavumeter

    Restart to get pulseaudio running

    3 – Start pavucontrol, setting input/output is set to Audio Stereo Duplex

    That’s pretty much it! Now I have a Chromebook that can switch to LXDE (LubuntuLinux) for audio editing when I need it using Audacity, as well as access my Keepass password file. And, I can record the video tutorials for getting around in LXDE! The video quality–and sound–is actually better than doing the recording on my Macbook Air…still haven’t figured that one out!


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    #Chromebook WebCam Recording – App Roundup (Updated 12/10/14)

    Welcome! Want to do some screencasting for flipped classroom or video tutorials on your Chromebook? Then you’ve come to the right place. The following are screencasting/webcam recording apps worth checking out.

    Here’s a quick list of the rest in order of preference:

    1. My Pick: Screencastify 
    2. TechSmith’s Snagit app and extension combo
    3. ClipChamp
    4. MediaCore Capture

    You can read the rest of this blog entry for more details….

    It was only yesterday that a colleague asked, “How do you record video on the Chromebook?” While I have always tested video recording with WeVideo, I found myself looking for an app that would record video locally. . .I just hadn’t made the time to search.

    Thank goodness for my Twitter PLN! Where else can you ask a question and get responses back in a short time period?

    Fortunately, since Chromebooks are smashing the Education Market in the U.S.A., LOTS of folks are asking great questions, sharing them via Twitter.

    As of the third quarter of 2014, Chromebooks have displaced iPads as the most popular new devices shipping to U.S. schools. This is a huge win for Google in a market historically dominated by Apple and Microsoft. According to the Financial Times and IDC, “Google shipped 715,500 of the low-cost laptops into US schools in the third quarter, compared with 702,000 iPads.” Even more striking, the $199 and up Chromebooks have gone from zero to a quarter of the educational market in only two years…While Apple has been pumping iPads into schools, Google has gotten many of the same schools hooked on its free Google Apps for Education Suite. 

    Source: Forbes.com Article

    TIP – Quick Chrome App Management: Before we get started adding a whole bunch of extensions/apps to your Chromebook, you might want to first install Simple Extension Manager…that way, you can easily manage/disable extensions or apps you don’t want instead of digging around the innards of Chrome browser tools.

    Some solutions for the webcam recording app question that involves saving directly to your Chromebook:

    1. My Pick: Screencastify - This remains an easy choice to depend on and I keep coming back to it, even after having tried all the rest. It features picture in a picture as well.
    2. ClipChamp – This was an easy to use webcam capture tool.  Read this great blog entry that walks you through the whole process of using ClipChamp…at the end of the process, you end up with these options shown right. As you can see, the video you get is an MP4 that is viewable and sharable on most devices and web sites.
    3. MediaCore Capture – I really liked MediaCore Capture…it recorded not only my screen, but also included a video feed of me in the bottom right hand-corner! The only fly in the ointment is that the video format it creates is webm (a.k.a. HTML5 video), which you would have to convert–maybe use Zamzar.com WebM to MP4–before uploading to a video sharing site. I can really see using MediaCore Capture as a screencasting alternative to Screencastify and TechSmith’s Snagit app and extension combo, which (as far I know) only offers screencasting.
    4. Zamzar Video Conversion needed for MediaCore Capture
    5. TechSmith’s Snagit app and extension combo

    If you are looking for quick captures using the WebCam, consider these apps as well:
    • WebCam – Relies on a web site to “turn on your webcam” on your Chromebook.
    • WebCamToy – This app will work while offline to capture pictures. Features 80 special effects for pictures taken.
    WebM to MP4 Video Converters
    Here are a few tools you can use to convert from WebM to MP4, but if you’re putting the WebM videos in YouTube, it won’t be a problem…YouTube can handle WebM/HTML5 videos!

    Final Selection: What’s my recommendation? Of these tools, I’d have to go with Screencastify. I know how to convert WebM to MP4, so that wouldn’t be an impediment for me. I also like the fact I can record the presenter in the bottom right-hand corner. That’s not to say I would cast away other tools like ClipChamp and TechSmith (since it offers image capture and other features) but for quick recommendations, Screencastify is my favorite.
    And, while I have used WeVideo to “test out” webcam recording, it’s probably “too much” since I have little interest in video editing for most projects…my work is often done in “1-take.”
    What are your thoughts?

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    File Commander for Mac – FastCommander

    Earlier today I saw something quite frightening–a messy desktop on a Mac. The thought of clicking and dragging a few hundred documents and folders to their appropriate location gave me chills. But what to do? I immediately looked to my gold standard solution–some kind of File Commander for Mac.

    Midnight Commander

    I’ve grown accustomed to using Midnight Commander on GNU/Linux machines when handling more than 10 files/folders, that I can’t imagine having to click-n-drag. Unfortunately, I needed something a bit more GUI for my end user’s machine.

    While I looked for various solutions, including revisiting an old favorite–muCommander, which works on Windows and Linux but not Mac OS 10 Yosemite anymore apparently–I ended up investing in Fast Commander, which cost less than $6 (I’ll forego a donut and coffee later this week).

    Works like a charm!


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    Job Posting: Systems Interface Specialist

    Note: The East Central ISD has shared the following job announcement for a Systems Interface Specialist. Read more below and apply online at http://www.ecisd.net

    EAST CENTRAL INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT
    Job Announcement – December 2, 2014

    Systems Interface Specialist

    The position for Systems Interface Specialist will be available in the East Central Independent School District for the 2014-2015 school year. Employees of the District may apply in writing to the Personnel Office. Others who are interested in this position may apply online at www.ecisd.net and then contact the Personnel Office at 210-648-7861 to express interest. The position will remain posted until it is filled.

    Primary Purpose: The Systems Interface Specialist will be responsible for working with a variety of technology systems, specializing in database interfaces between student or business information systems and third party vendors.

    DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
    1. Support the interface of cloud based hosted applications, single sign-on technologies, and curriculum and software vendors systems.
    2. Support Student Information System (e.g. iTCCS) and data management systems, including the ECISD mirror copy of ITCCS data.
    3. Actively learn and apply knowledge of SQL, MySQL, VBScript, Windows Batch Scripting, etc.
    4. Create and maintain project plans that identify expectations, deliverables, tasks, milestone dates, status, and resource
      allocation.
    5. Apply appropriate project management techniques to minimize risk and ensure the success of all projects.
    6. Establish and maintain regular written and in-person communication.
    7. Develop and maintain technical documentation related to assigned functions and responsibilities.
    8. Ensure that an exceptional level of customer service is provided.
    9. Complete post-project evaluations to determine how results were achieved.
    10. Understand and apply client/server applications architecture and management.
    11. Understand and offer input on growing the District’s network and server architecture.
    12. Display strong communication and organizational skills.
    13. Facilitate complex, cross-functional projects to successful completion with multiple departments and vendor partners.
    14. Produce high quality work in a dynamic environment.
    15. Exhibit efficient communication to stakeholders with excellent written and verbal communication skills.
    16. Display the ability to work under pressure and remain calm in the midst of changing circumstances.
    17. Exhibit the ability to rapidly adapt and respond to changes in the environment and priorities.

    Note: Not all applicants will be interviewed. Each applicant’s resume, application, and other available information will be considered in the screening process. Only those persons currently meeting all of the minimum requirements will be screened.

    MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:
    1. Bachelor’s degree (preferred)
    2. Experience developing, implementing, and refining systems, processes, and/or protocols
    3. Ability to identify an issue, structure and implement a problem-solving approach
    4. Ability to engage and inspire a wide range of audiences
    5. Experience developing Gantt charts and using other common project management techniques/tools


    EQUIPMENT USED: Computer, printer, digital cameras, video equipment, scanners, service tools, software programs

    WORKING CONDITIONS: Mental Demands/Physical Demands/Environmental Factors: Maintain emotional control under stress and work with frequent interruptions. Frequent standing, stooping, bending, kneeling, pushing, and pulling. Repetitive hand motions, frequent keyboarding and use of mouse; occasional reaching. Occasional light lifting and carrying (less than 45 pounds). Frequent districtwide travel.

    PERIOD OF EMPLOYMENT: 226 days SALARY: Based on experience

    Roland Toscano – Superintendent of Schools


    *An Equal Opportunity Employer*


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    Securing Your Passwords: Chromebook

    In previous blog entries, I’ve shared how much I appreciate the wonderful work the free, open source password protection/tracking solution community has done for Keepass. I literally work on Android, GNU/Linux, iOS, and Mac every day (occasionally Windows), and being able to access my passwords across all those platforms is a fantastic!

    Visit http://techualization.blogspot.com

    Unfortunately, I was finding myself spending a lot of time on a Chromebook, so I needed a quick way to access my passwords via the Chromebook. Since you can’t install Windows/Mac/Linux software on a Chromebook–I’ve installed GNU/Linux OS on Chromebook, but switched back to ChromeOS–I needed something to interface with Keepass.

    The solution I ran across is “BrowsePass,” which was developed in 2013 and is still under development. You can install it in any Chrome browser, but it also works fine on Chromebooks (get it as an add-on).

    BrowsePass reads KeePass (http://keepass.info) password database file (only version 2). It can open both remote and local files. You’d use BrowsePass when you cannot install or download KeePass locally. BrowsePass runs entirely in your browser, no additional software is needed. BrowsePass DOES NOT support files created with KeePass version 1 (KDB files)!

    This solution works great, and I encourage you to give it a try.


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