Flipping Day 1 (Part 1)

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I’ve been focusing on flipping day 1, i.e. taking the Course Guide / Goals and Expectations sheet and flipping it so I don’t have to read through the whole thing with my class. Here’s what I came up with:

We’ll see. I feel like it’s a bit of a cop-out to just copy and paste the text from my paper document, but I guess I wasn’t quite read to jettison the verbosity entirely. Not sure if that was a good decision or not. We’ll see what the students think.

I’m also wondering about parents night. Do I just show the video? It’s only 4 mins and change but that seems a bit impersonal. On the other hand, it showcases not only the point of parents night in its most basic form (the course and what it’s about) but also the use of technology. Any thoughts on that?

I also have to finish off the technology flipped video in which I take students through the technology they’ll need for the course and how to sign-up for it / access it / use it. (That will be Part 2 of the title.)

Remind101 vs. Twitter (and how to Embed Remind101)

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I feel like I spend a lot of time discussing communication and how best to do it. My Twitter experiences are well documented, and I wrote a lot about Kikutext last summer. Remind101 is similar to Kikutext and, from what I remember of Kikutext, easier and a bit more streamlined: students text a sign-up message to a dummy number (not your number) which then auto-responds with instructions. They are then in your class and will receive messages you send from the Remind101 site or app on their phones as text messages.

In any case, at this point I’m trying to figure out whether to continue to use Twitter-via-cell-phone for communication or to shift over to Remind101. One of my big stumbling blocks with Remind101 was that individual classes could not be embedded, so that every text sent to all classes would show up on an individual class’s website (or ItsLearning page). Whether they added the individualization feature or I just missed it the first time, you can indeed embed individual Remind101 feeds in your website:

  1. At upper right, click on your user name and from the menu that appears choose ‘Widgets’.
  2. On the ‘Widgets’ page, click ‘Create another widget’ at bottom left.
  3. Use the pulldown menu to choose the class for which you want to create the widget and click the ‘Get Widget’ button.
  4. Copy the embed code and paste it into your site.

So any thoughts on Remind101 (or similar web-based text services) vs. Twitter? I’m leaning toward Remind101 but I (and my students) are used to Twitter.

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Some Tips on Embedding a GoogleCalendar

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My goal was to embed my class calendar into my CMS page and iCloud wouldn’t let me do that, so this year I’m migrating to GoogleCalendar, and have already embedded the calendar into my CMS page (and it looks great). I summarize here some tips I picked up researching embedding a GoogleCalendar.

  1. Begin at ‘Calendar Settings’. Hover over the arrow to the right of a specific calendar and ‘Calendar Settings’ will show up there.
  2. From the ‘Calendar Settings’ screen, click on the ‘Share this Calendar’ button at the top. On that screen, make your calendar public (you can also share with specific people via email). Without adjusting this setting, events won’t be seen in your embedded calendar.
  3. Go back to the original ‘Calendar Settings’ screen by clicking on the ‘Calendar Details’ tab.
  4. 3/4s of the way down this ‘Calendar Details’ page is a section entitled ‘Embed This Calendar’. In the box next to the image is the basic embed code. To embed your calendar in its simplest form, copy this code and paste it into your website (or CMS, etc.).
  5. But you can customize your calendar in terms of adding other calendars, changing the day on which a week begins, changing the default view of your calendar, etc.
  6. To customize your calendar, click on the ‘Customize the color, size, and other options’ button above the embed code. You’ll see this screen (which is pretty self-explanatory) reproduced at the bottom and I’ll go through the sections.
  7. You can give your Calendar a Title (I did not do this because ItsLearning has a title built in to its space).
  8. The Default View determines how your calendar is viewed when embedded. I changed mine to Week to give students an overview of the week’s work.
  9. The width and height change the size of the calendar but my CMS provided a fixed space so I did not change these.
  10. Week Starts On changes the day on which the week begins. You can’t choose every day, but Sunday, Monday, Saturday are the choices. I chose Monday because Monday through Friday fit perfectly in the window on my CMS (beginning on Sunday meant that Sunday through Thursday were visible and the student would have to scroll to see Friday).
  11. Language and Background Color are pretty self-explanatory.
  12. Calendars to Display lets you add other calendars to the embedded calendar. I wanted to include the school letter days in my embedded calendar, so I checked the box next to School (you can’t see all of the calendars in the screen shot; and, yes, I enter the letter days by hand (strangely therapeutic)).

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 8.25.59 AM

So there are some tips on embedding a GoogleCalendar. I’m pleased with the result so far but, of course, no students yet. That’s the real test. Next time, GoogleCalendar on the iPhone.

(i and Google)Calendar Travails

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I began keeping my own plan book on iCal years ago (evidenced by the fact that I still call it iCal). For me it gave me the overview, flexibility, and ease-of-navigating that I had been lacking in a plan book. Additionally, it saved everything for me in a way that a printed syllabus did not.

When iCloud came along, I was thrilled with the possibility of sharing the calendar with my students: no more printing of calendars or making .pdfs of them for posting elsewhere. What I did on the calendar showed up on their calendar. My problem with iCloud, though, was that I could not embed the calendar anywhere, i.e. I couldn’t embed the calendar in my ItsLearning (CMS) page.

I’d been resisting GoogleCalendar for years, largely because I’m not a huge fan of the Google interface, but its flexibility and embed-ability has made me take it on for this year. I’m officially moving to GoogleCalendar away from iCloud / iCal. I will still keep some of my personal schedule on iCal but all of my school-based scheduling will be done through GoogleCalendar so that I can embed that calendar in my ItsLearning page.

The relationship between GoogleCalendar and iCal has been written about plenty (both here and on the web) so I will not retread that ground. Suffice it to say that I have my iCal pulling in my GoogleCalendar events so that I can see whatever I schedule in GoogleCalendar in my iCal (and so on my phone, iPad, etc.). For me, that’s the important part, because a lot of times when a student asks about a date, the easiest thing for me to do is to check it on my phone. So as long as iCal can pull in the GoogleCalendar events (which it is / seems to be doing), that is a system that works fine for me.

So I’m off with GoogleCalendar. It looks great on the ItsLearning page (see the next post for some tips on embedding), and I’m not hating the interface, though I still prefer the Mac / Calendar interface. We’ll see how it goes.

Message from Brad Sparks, Founder of SubmitBox

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Received this email from Brad Sparks, founder of SubmitBox (who is very responsive, by the way), and with his permission I reprint it here as an update on where SubmitBox is and where it is going.

Hello SubmitBox Beta Users,

Well, my summer break is almost over.  Faculty meetings start on Friday for me.  I know many of you have already started, and I wish you all a successful and productive school year.

New Features: 

This summer I added a ton of new features to SubmitBox.  Here’s a run down:

  • I’ve added SSL encryption to all of your sites. When you visit your site, you”ll notice the address is preceded by https rather than http now.  This will give your sites more security from possible prying eyes.
  • An improved student upload interface including the ability to drag and drop files onto an assignments page.
  • A clone assignment feature so you can add an assignment to multiple classes.
  • A class reset, that allows you to start a class over again.
  • The ability to import students via a CSV files.
  • The ability to import grades for assignments via CSV. (PowerSchool imports are the only ones supported right now.)
  • The ability to deactivate a class that you aren’t teaching at the moment.
  • The ability to hide/show & delete multiple selected assignments and students

Several user interface improvements were made as well along with some “under the hood” optimizations.

SubmitBox is still in beta. If you have a problem or find a bug, please click on the support link in the upper right corner of your dashboard or email me at brad.sparks@submitbox.org and describe what the problem is for me.

Get in while the gettin’s good

SubmitBox will be coming out of beta and become a paid application in the next couple months.  All beta users (that’s you guys) will be getting a huge lifetime discount, something around $1 per month, no joke.  Get the word out to your colleagues that you feel could benefit from SubmitBox to sign up ASAP so they can get this lifetime discount themselves.

School accounts coming soon

I’ve begun work on a school version of SubmitBox.  I’m hoping to have it ready some time in October.  I’ll send out a notification when I’m ready to have schools start using it.

Keep educating well and efficiently,

Brad Sparks
Founder of SubmitBox

New Look for Courses in ItsLearning

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I’ve been playing around with the layout of my course home page on ItsLearning, and I’ve come up with a new look that I like, both for aesthetics and functionality.

There is a ‘Change Course Layout’ button at upper right that gives three options: two columns, one column, and wide left. I never quite knew what wide left was (or never bothered to consider it) but I checked it out today and I like it a lot. It gives one wide column (about 2/3s of the screen) on the left and a narrow column on the right. I suppose this appeals to my photographer sensibilities (rule of thirds) and my disdain for the symmetry of the two column approach that is so common.

I now have four content blocks in two rows (and remember, the left one is wide and the right one is narrow). Top row: embedded GoogleCalendar and embedded Twitter feed. Bottom row: course intro / overview (what was my one column last year) and bulletins.

I’ll write more about the GoogleCalendar and Twitter but a nice feature for the calendar (and what sold me on the wide left format) is, if you set the week-beginning day to Monday, the wide left column fits exactly five days, so the students see Monday to Friday only (and can scroll over for Saturday & Sunday but there shouldn’t be any / much calendar traffic on the weekend).

Wide left (not a field goal attempt). Give it a try and tell me what you think.

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