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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Duplicate vs. Extended Mode

When you plug your laptop into a Promethean {or other} display, the laptop should automatically switch to Duplicate Mode, which allows you to see the exact same screen on your laptop as you do on the Promethean board.

Most teachers like to operate on Duplicate Mode. If that's you and you ever happen to plug your laptop into the Promethean and only see a blank screen or your laptop's background image, try pressing the FN + F8 keys on your laptop simultaneously and choosing the "Duplicate Mode" option. 

However, there are times when I think Extended Mode is pretty handy! 

What is Extended Mode?
Think of those fancy-pants technology gurus who have more than one computer monitor, like the one setup shown below:

The reason this display is so handy is because it gives you more screen space. For instance, I can work on this blog post on the monitor on the left and search for a suitable image for the post on the monitor on the right. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I promise: it's borderline life-changing if you do a lot of computer work!  

Extended Mode basically turns your Promethean {or other display} into a second computer monitor. Yes, it's a tiny bit clunky to operate, since one of your screens is laptop-size and the other is ginormous...but it's still pretty rad. 

Times When Using Extended Mode is Handy
1. When a kid asks you a question during whole-group instruction that you need to Google. There's no shame in Googling -- I did it all the time as a classroom teacher! But I also know that whatever comes up in the search results may not necessarily be appropriate for my kids to view. I'd use Extended Mode to quickly switch the display so I could Google without showing the results on the Promethean. 

2. When you want to monitor student iPad work. When I was in the classroom, I used AirServer to allow students to display their iPad screen on the Promethean board to show peers their work. I also used that trick when students were working independently or with a partner on their iPads -- by asking students to display their device on the Promethean -- to help make sure everyone stayed on task. Switching to Extended Mode allowed me to display instructions on the Promethean board for everyone to see and then monitor iPad usage on my laptop screen. {Full disclosure: the more iPad screens you display at once, the smaller they become. I "only" had 12 iPads. So yes, the screens were small when all displayed on my laptop at once, but I could easily tell if someone was off-task by playing the "one of these things is not like the other..." game!}

3. When you need to use your laptop for another purpose while simultaneously displaying something for the entire class. I'd never advocate for, say, inputting grades or looking at student attendance in a place where students can see over your shoulder. However, during my last gig as classroom teacher, I had a little friend who preferred to work in his own spot and hated to write. Since I was in Science Lab, I had some leeway in being able to use technology to let him record Science Lab findings. If we ever encountered an issue where he needed to use an actual computer {as opposed to an iPad}, I just put my laptop on Extended Mode, opened a recording program for him, and let him type away. I really feel like this helped avoid several potential meltdowns while still keeping him engaged and learning. Obviously, you can also use this trick if you need to access other information, as well -- what about an online stopwatch on your laptop while directions are displayed on the Promethean?

4. When you need to get attention quickly. If your kids are too busy looking at what's on the screen to pay attention to your words, you can use Extended View to quickly eliminate the distraction, make your announcement, and then switch back over to whatever you were viewing before. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sites to Practice Typing

My mom was (and still is) a super-fast typist. She's an accountant, and I remember being amazed that she could type numbers into her computer programs without even looking at the keyboard. My dad was a teacher at the time, and she would type his exams sometimes; I remember thinking that the keyboard was going to go up in flames due to how fast she was! 

As I watched my mom type, I began to see the computer as more than just a gaming system -- it was a way to be more efficient and professional. Even at a young age, I could see that typed work always looked more "put together" than hand-written work. Further, my mom could type faster than anyone could write, so I started to see the computer as a tool to save time. 

The more I thought about it, the more I decided I needed to learn to type fast like I started practicing. Rest assured that I spent plenty of time playing outside as a kid, but the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade was when I took random books off the shelf, placed them in my lap, and just typed what was inside.

I'll go ahead and put this here, since I know you're thinking it....
As I've gotten older, I've learned to embrace my nerdiness.

I have no idea what possessed me to type books (why didn't I make up my own things to type?), but it ended up being great practice since I got to type all kinds of symbols, too. 

In 3rd grade, my teacher assigned everyone the task of researching an animal of our choice. (To this day, I still do not know why I chose the Palomino horse...) I used my newfound typing skills to finish and submit my paper super-early (those of you that know me can see that my personality has pretty much remained consistent since elementary school!). I don't recall the sequence of events that led to the next step -- I just remember that, somehow, I ended up typing all of my classmates' animal research papers on the little computer in the corner of our classroom that all the other kids only used to play Oregon Trail. 

My typing skills have only gotten better and faster since then, and they have served me well throughout the years. I fully understand that today's children are growing up with different devices and different needs, but I still think typing is a valuable skill -- and one that our kids should be practicing at least every once in a while. 

If you subscribe to the same school of thought, here are some free resources you can use to let your students practice typing:
A lot of these games require Flash, which means that you won't be able to play them on an iPad unless you pay for a fancy app that allows Flash websites. However, if you do want to practice typing on an iPad, you may want to invest in an iPad keyboard. Personally, I prefer iPad keyboard cases that allow you to type while the device is both vertical and horizontal. Here are favorites:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Safe Search Sites for Kids

As a teacher, I want my students to ask questions and then work to find the answers themselves. I will always be there to guide and support my students to find the answers they need, but I think the process of searching, filtering sources, and deciding which information is best is more valuable than the actual answer.

That said, I would never direct students to just search in Google for their answer. I am of the belief that kids are only young once and that they are exposed to enough "adult content" at an early age via various forms of media; I want to let my students "be little" for as long as possible! And I'm always surprised when I search for something seemingly innocent and receive some...not so innocent results. 😳

The happy medium I've found is to guide students to search on "kid friendly" search engines. Our district subscribes to a number of these...if you work in my district, check with your campus librarian to see exactly which databases are available to you. 

However, if you're looking for something free that can be used at any time, here are some kid-friendly search engines I like:
Be aware that none of these safe-searches are going to catch 100% of the icky stuff, so I still recommend being present and aware of what children are looking for online. 

Once you have these links, there are several ways you can get them onto student devices. Click here to read about 8 ways to quickly share links with students.