Monday, November 9, 2009

Google Teacher Academy Video Application Washington D.C. 09

Update: I've made it. I have been accepeted to go to the Google Teacher Academy in Washington D.C.
Here is a link to another site that has all of the GTADC videos that have been tweeted. GTADC09

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Google Calendar to Twitter – How to get the most out of your Google Calendar

When I created our new school website over the summer one of the goals I had was to communicate with our audience in as many ways as possible. We now have news articles on the home page and we have an embedded Google Calendar. I also set up a page for the daily bulletin in written and video form as well as an RSS feed from two of our school Twitter accounts (LGHSCalendar & LGHSCafe) on the bulletin page, one to tell you coming events and the other to tell you the cafeteria menu for the day.
Communication in many forms was the primary goal, however a secondary goal was ease of maintenance. I did not want to personally tweet the cafeteria menu daily or the daily events. Automation was the key, but how? I decided the easiest solution was to find a way to send our daily reminders from our Google Calendar of school events and cafeteria schedule to Twitter. How to do this was the problem. I tried SMS-to-SMS and even RSS-to-SMS but could not get the accounts to talk to one another. The answer was With this free service I was able to have Google Calendar send out an email reminder of an event to TwitterMail, TwitterMail in return would then post that reminder as a Tweet on our Twitter accounts. The only thing I need to do is keep the calendar up to date. As an added bonus Twitter has an RSS feed for an account profile, meaning that I can use that feed with an RSS reader gadget to post it dynamically on our website.
Again, communication was my goal and I was able to accomplish a big portion with a couple of calendars that were created already. Using these existing calendars we now are able to communicate in many ways with our audience.
Several people have asked me how I was able to set this up. I decided to create a screen capture of the process to help them out.

This is the step-by-step version with instructions.

This is a quick animoto version.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What would Google do if they ran a school?

I have been reading a book written by Jeff Jarvis, "What Would Google Do?"" The book is very good and it has inspired me to write this blog post and ask the question, what would Google do if it ran a school. I hope Mr. Jarvis is ok with me expanding on his thoughts and topic of his book.

The first idea that I think Google would implement in a school would of course be the twenty percent rule. Just like how Google encourages their employees to work on a project of their own design during 20% of their work schedule. Students would be allowed to use 20% of the week, one day, to work a product of their choosing. Now of course they would need to have the project based on the topic they are studying, but we would be encouraging creativity, self instruction, and self work habits, not to mention teaching the idea of being a life-long learner. The students would not be the only with 20% of their time available. Teachers would also be encouraged to be creative during this time. Imagine the outcome and possibilities that could come out of this time.

The next thing that would be encouraged on campus would be networks. Now education has encouraged networking before. This not a new thing and teachers have been collaborating to improve student learning. This is networking to the next level. Networks between not just teachers but students, parents, staff, and administration. Remember it is not just the teachers job to teach a student, but the whole village. Google Apps would be the tool of choice in the case of this network. A way to build collaboration on a grand scale, not just on the school site, but in the community as well. I can only imagine what the next Wave will bring (pun intended). Google Wave will allow even more interactivity and hopefully make it easier for this network to excel. It was introduced as the future of email but it is also the future of collaborative document building and networking.

Distributed learning would also be key to a Google run school. Google does not wait for its costumers to come to them; they go to their costumers. They have their information everywhere and allow others to put the information on their own websites. Google also allows individuals to use their services to make their websites better. Just think of the possibilities when schools and teachers start sending the information to the students. Students would not have to go to a teacher's website; the information the students need to complete an assignment would come to them. This could be many forms: subscriptions to RSS feeds, a YouTube video feed, or even as simple as emails. The students would have it there where they need it, in front of them.

Great companies do a great job of listening to their costumers. They find out what their costumers need and want out of products. They monitor the web for information about their products, good or bad. They take the criticism and accolades of the product and monitor and adjust. What if we took this practice into education. Google would implement this process. Allow students, parents, teachers and administrators to give their opinion on the process. This could be very scary to the average teacher or administrator. What if we get crushed with criticism or negative feedback? Then Google would monitor and adjust. Of course a company could not fix every tiny glitch, but they could try, and a school should too. Of course we should instruct our students on how to be responsible citizens and criticize in a constructive manner and not just rant. This is simply building a community that can only build a stronger school.

I know some of these things are happening already by early adopters, forward thinking, and tech savy educators. Some or all of these things could help change education for the positve. It cannot just be done by one or two individuals at a school. The entire school or district needs to make these changes.

Please tell me what you think in the comments. I would like to hear the positives and negatives. I am only half way through the book so I hope to have a second post with more ideas and thoughts later.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Twitter Followers Bio’s as a Word Cloud – Part 2

I thought this would be a good time to revisit my post about “My Twitter Followers Bio’s as a Word Cloud.” I used a site called Twittersheep to create a word cloud from the bio’s of my followers. When I put this post up the first time, I had about 100 followers. I am now approaching the 250 mark (a milestone for some, a drop in the hat for others). This is great, it is hard to believe that I have so many people that are interested in what I might have to say (I am definitely interested in what they have to say). My PLN is growing and I am learning new things daily.

I was curious how my followers would fare this time. The biggest words in the cloud last time: “technology” & “teacher.” What would they be this time? To my pleasant surprise “teacher,” “technology” & “education.” Thanks for following everyone. If you are not following me, check out iteachag on Twitter.

Twittersheep 2

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Do you coach to teach or just to win?

Another year of CDE’s or career development events are finished. This past Saturday (May 2) was the California State FFA Finals held at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I have talked about CDE’s before in my posts ( and I feel they are very important to our FFA programs across the state and nation. The question I have to ask is: Do you coach to teach or just to win? Don’t get me wrong; I have a strong competitive nature and I really like to win, but is that the only purpose to these contests?

I teach at a small high school of about 500 students. Of that, around 350 of the students are members of the FFA. Not all are active members. In a good year we have up to 100 actives. We are in a rural community, but most of our students live in town and we do not have a school farm. That being said, there is only a small population of students that are able to have substantial SAE’s (Supervised Agricultural Experiences or, simply, put an Ag project or job). The rest of the students that want to be active in the program are able to be involved in leadership events and/or CDE’s (or more fondly called judging teams). If I had to guess I would think that it this way for quite a few FFA Chapters and Agriculture Departments throughout the state.

CDE’s are great activities for students to be involved in and are part of the three circles of agricultural education: Classroom, FFA, and SAE’s. These contest are directly related to the FFA but we need to remember that these contest are tied to the agricultural classroom and possibly a student’s SAE. The numerous contests that our students are involved in are designed to teach them a useful skill that could possibly lead them to a career in the area they are participating. I push my students to do the best job they can at the contests; we all like to win of course. We are in the business of teaching and more importantly teaching by using Agriculture as our medium. The thing I always try to remember is that this is a learning experience for my students. If my students can do better at each contest or learn from each contest I think the students have grown. Students can have an off day, sure we are probably not happy, but think about the teachable moment that can make. Why do we coach these CDE teams? Is it to become State and possibly National Champions or is it to give our students the best learning opportunities possible. If my team is the next State Champion or if they are 25th in the State, if they have learned and grown throughout the process, I think I have succeeded in my job. And hey, there is always next year. So I ask you again: Do you coach to teach or just to win?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Use the Power of Twitter to Build Your Personal Learning Network

Last week during our school’s bi-monthly collaboration day, I introduced the teachers to the idea of PLN’s or Personal Learning Networks. To most of the staff a PLN was not something they had heard about before. The last year and a half we have been talking about building a school wide Professional Learning Community (PLC), the idea of the PLC is the entire staff would have the same goals and expectations for the school, students and learning on campus. For myself, the idea of a PLN is the building block to a better PLC. Everyone is their own individual with their own ideas and backgrounds, meaning everyone will have their own PLN (that’s why it’s a “personal” learning network). If every teacher can bring their own PLN, we make a larger, more experienced PLC.

This is were the power of Twitter comes to play. In my last post, Learning to Twitter, Tweeting to Learn I discussed how I thought Twitter could help us build a great PLN and help us to stay life-long learners. Let’s just say I did not do the power of Twitter justice. Yesterday I was part of my first educhat on Twitter. I am not sure if any one individual was the person who came up with the idea; I do know that two people from my PLN played a very big part, Rodd Lucier and Bud Talbot. What is educhat? It is a way that anyone interested in educational technology can come together and talk through Twitter. Everyone involved in the discussion uses the hash tag #educhat. A hash tag allows you to follow the discussion of all the individuals, whether or not you are officially “following” them (please see my last post if you are unsure about what it means to follow someone).

The true power of Twitter unfolded before my eyes. During educhat, there were a large number of people that all came together for a specific purpose, to talk about educational technology. The best part is everyone brought their PLN’s with them.

In a way our students are ahead of us in building PLNs. They do it all the time on social media websites like Facebook and Myspace. Now if we can leverage this power for education, just think of the learning opportunities for our students.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Learning to Twitter, Tweeting to Learn

Twitter was a little like a new toy at first, I used it a few days and then stopped. I don’t know if I got tired of it or maybe I was just frustrated with the lack of interaction. I started by following all my tech favorites: Leo Leporte, Kevin Rose, Sarah Lane, John C. Dvorak, Patrick Norton, Amber MaCarthur and Cali Lewis. Then I also followed a couple of teachers that had a podcast or Blog on the internet like Rodd Lucier and Mr.Teacher. Most of these people have so many followers that they can’t possibly follow everyone in return and so no interaction.

Lets take a step back and help some people out. First off, Twitter is a service that lets you tell people what you are doing, feeling, ask a question, or simply interact with others all in 140 characters or less. You can follow people and you will see what they “Tweet” (what you call a post on Twitter). People can follow you, and they are not necessarily the same people that you have followed. Are we thoroughly confused now? The best way to start is to follow people you think would have the same interests as you and hopefully the same type of people will follow you. Now this is the best part of Twitter in my opinion. This is where new networks and communities are formed.

So I stopped using Twitter until I found out I should search for people that would have the same interests as me. I looked for more people involved in agriculture, teaching, teachers using technology in classrooms and people involved with the FFA. I did not just search out internet superstars. You see that was my problem at first. I was following people that had great information that I could gather, but I had no interaction with. I went from about 15 people I was following to about 50. Within two days I was overwhelmed with people who started following me.

This is when Twitter came alive for me. I first started by repeating information others had Tweeted, a Retweet. It is kind of like a bibliography and a nice tweet all at the same time (The proper way to retweet - “RT @username tweet from person”) This will put you on someone’s radar that you like what they are talking about plus it helps promote the other person by allowing people following you to see someone else’s tweet. The next step was to start “replying” to people (@username - tweet). This will allow the person to see that you are saying something to them. This is a bit like instant messaging except everyone can see what you have written. The last thing you can do is Direct Message someone or DM. A DM will get a message to a person without anyone else reading it (if you do it correctly - D @username - tweet). You can only DM someone when you are both following each other. Of course you can just tweet something of your own.

OK, enough about how to use Twitter. What can it do for you? You see, when I said earlier that Twitter came alive for me, what I meant was the interaction with others had started. As I “met” new people by following them I was learning new things that people had tweeted and I was able to ask questions and find answers from several sources. I am always after new ways to bring technology into the classroom and the education process either for students, teacher, or the entire school. Twitter helped me to build a network of people that were Tweeting their ideas, Retweeting the ideas of others, or putting up links to websites that people had found useful. I consider myself a life long learner, that is I am always looking for ways to increase my abilities and Twitter has helped me to stay on top of the cutting edge of Educational Technology or Education 2.0 as some people call it.

Twitter is used by many different people in many different ways. I found out for me that as I was learning to Twitter, I was also Tweeting to Learn. Twitter has allowed me to broaden my own PLN or Personal Learning Community. I hope educators can see the power of Twitter for themselves as well as their students. They need to see that it is not just another social media site that students “waste time on.” What a great way to have students, teachers, and parents interact and share information and learning with each other.

For more information on Twitter check out these websites:, Twitterforteachers, Once a Teacher… or search for Twitter on Google.

Here is a great presentation by Evan Williams: How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Twitter Followers Bio’s as a Word Cloud

After checking out Wordle and producing a word cloud from my blog posts, I remembered a site called Twittersheep. Twittersheep will create a word cloud from the bio’s of your followers. My followers are in the fields of technology and teaching. Follow me iteachag on Twitter.


My Blog as a word cloud courtesy of Wordle.


My Blog as a word cloud courtesy of Wordle. I am glad to see that FFA and Students are some of the biggest words. Give Wordle a try; I think you will have fun with it. This could be a fun add-on for students that have a long assignment to complete.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You ever have one of those days?

You ever have one of those days? We all know what comes next, a whine about a bad day we had. In this case, just the opposite. I had one of those days that keeps me excited about being a teacher, working with students, and being involved as an advisor for the FFA.

(A little background: I am the advisor for the Le Grand FFA Chapter and I am also the Merced/Mariposa Sectional FFA Advisor. My six sectional officers consists of three Juniors and three Seniors.)

The day started out fairly normal for an FFA activity day, on the road by 5:30am. Then I arrived at Modesto by 6:30 to meet some students that needed to set up their posters before anyone else; they wanted to get the best spots. They were running for one of six spots on the Central Region FFA Officer Team. The posters were to help them campaign during the elections to seek out votes from the 120 or so delegates representing roughly 60 FFA chapters in the northern Central Valley of California. There would be a Regional Meeting, Regional Leadership Contest Finals, Regional Awards, and Regional Officer elections all held on this day. The three Seniors would be attending as voting delegates for their chapters and also as representatives of the section to hand out awards and help put on regional contests. The three Juniors had all been slated on the ballot for regional office.

The first supprise - my sectional officers selected me as the Outstanding Agricultural Advisor in the Merced/Mariposa Section. What a great honor it is to be selected and recognized by students for the job you are doing. I am always overwhelmed at how thoughtful and insightful FFA members are, especially ones at this level.

The next surprise happened at the end of the day's events. All the speeches had been given and ballots had been tallied. My three Juniors from my sectional officer team had all been selected to be part of the Central Region Officer team. Out of six sections there were three sections represented on the officer team. Two officers were from the Sacramento Section, one from the Stanislaus/Toulumne Section, and my three Sectional Officers from the Merced/Mariposa Section. I was very happy for them and know they will do a great job representing us. This sectional team has been outstanding; not only are half of them moving to the next level but the other half of the group, the seniors, will all be running for State FFA Office in April.

After the exciting FFA activities of the day, I was on my way back towards home to meet my wife and daughter at a friend's house for bible study. Almost, home I decide to get a little caffeine and stopped off for a coffee. I place my order at the drive through and pulled around. To my surprise, in the window is a former student and FFA member. What a nice way to end my FFA day before getting home. She informs me she has just finished her AA Degree, is attending State College to get a degree in Psychology and is engaged to be married next year to another former student and FFA member.

Now, this is a personal post about a great day I had. I have told myself that I wanted to keep my blog very professional and stay away from personal information. But I think this is directly related to my profession. These are the things that make being a teacher of agriculture and an FFA Advisor great. Days like today remind me of why I enjoy working with these young adults. Some days they can be a little unruly, but when it is all said and done, I work around a great bunch of students and look forward to watching them achieve and have success.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Education tools on the iPhone

I have found some great tools so far to use for teaching with the iPhone.

Lets start with the basics - Software to work with Google.

Google Earth - No explanation needed.

Google Mobile App (Free) - Gives you quick access to several Google Features. Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Reader, Talk, Goog-411, News, Notebook (for now), Photos (Picasa), orkut, Translate, Maps, Youtube, Earth, and Blogger. It will even let you set up for multiple domains.

CalenGoo (Paid) - A great way to sync with your Google Calendar. Syncs both ways. The Publisher is extremly responsive to questions and suggestions.

MiGhtyDocs (Free) - This app will let you cache your Google Docs to your iPhone so you can use them even when you don't have service.

Next, lets look at apps to help directly in the classroom.

i-Clicker PowerPoint Remote (Free/Paid) - Just like it sounds a remote app to run your PowerPoint. You will have to install an app on your computer, so you will need admin rights or have a good relationship with your IT person at school. The app lets you view the current slide, the next slide or notes that you have saved. It has a timer to help keep you on task, a forward button a back button, and a jump to slide# feature. There are two versions available, the full paid version and the lite version (limits you to 15 slides).

LabTimer (Free) - Simple little app that will allow multiple timers at once. Count up or count down.

a2zPro (Free) - A conversion app with plenty of options, such as Distance, Energy, Length, Pressure, Blood Sugar, Speed, etc...

WordPress (Free) - Simple tool to update your your WordPress Blog. Allows you to save drafts locally to your iPhone before posting. If I could change one thing, I would like to be able to see drafts that are saved on the WordPress website.

Animoto (Free) - This is very similar to the Animoto website that lets you make a quick video. Pick a song and upload some pictures and let it make the video.

Locly (Free) - Great tool when traveling with students. It finds your location and then lets you choose what you are looking for; restaurants, museums, taxis, banks, etc...

Evernote (Free) - One of the best note taking tools on the Internet and the iPhone makes it even more usable.

Speed Dial #1, #2, #3, #4 (Free) - Simple apps to do just what the title says.

SuperDial (Free) - App to make a favorites list to with pictures.

Twitteriffic (Free) - Great free Twitter app for the iPhone. Hopefully the next update will have the ability to retweet.

Twitterlink (Free) - This app will allow you to create a bookmark in Safari on the iPhone which will create a shortened URL for your tweet.

ResponseWare (Free/Paid) - Free to download but you need to pay to register with TurningPoint so it can be used. Those of you that could get some money to buy a class set of iPod Touches would love this app. Allows individuals to answer questions with the TurningPoint response software.

These are apps that I have used and I prefer. Some of you might find an app that you would prefer over the ones I have listed. This is one of the great things about the app store; there are plenty of alternatives.

Please leave comments if you might prefer a different app, or please let me know if I have missed any.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Do You Google? It’s More Than Just A Search Engine

Most educators have heard of Google, but most do not know the extent of offerings that Google has for education. The title of this post is the title of an in-service that I have presented to two different groups of Agriculture Teachers in California’s Central Valley. These two in-services where put on by the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association (CATA). There was a great turn out, about 100 Ag Teachers total attended the two different in-services.

The training consisted of four parts.

First, learn how to share your calendar with others and have a calendar that multiple people can access. This is a great collaboration tool to be used with your students, parents of students, officers, and/or department. What better way to quickly reserve the Ag Truck for Friday to go pick up lab supplies, or to remind the students of the next FFA meeting.

Second, learn how to use Google Docs to make a form to poll your audience. I instructed the teachers how a form could be used to collect data about the students for the annual FFA membership report. The results are stored on a spread sheet each time someone submits there survey. There is also a very nice report that can be generated with charts and graphs.

Third, learn how to create a basic website using Google Sites. Sites can be used in various ways. It can be for a local FFA chapter web page, a place to post information for you class, or even a quick web page for an event the chapter is putting on.

Fourth, learn how tie all this information together. Most of the offerings that Google makes available can be linked very easily. For example the Form created in Google Docs can be posted on Google Sites in a matter of a few mouse click. This same thing can be said of the calendar, Picasa (Online photo sharing website owned by Google) and Youtube (also owned by Google). There are also things called Gadgets that will allow you to use content from other sources on your web page.

The best part to all of this is that is a free service by Google just sign up once for Gmail and you get the rest included. I have provide a link to the site I created to help with the in-service.


If anyone has any great ideas on how they have used Google’s service please leave a comment.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Career Development Events for Students

Saturday was our FFA section’s CDE’s (Career Development Events) for Public Speaking. The contests the students could participate in are FFA Creed Recitation (for Freshman), Prepared Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Public Speaking, and Job Interview Contest. Some students really get into the contests, but I don’t think they realize what they get out of it. These are not just competitions, but training for job and life skills. These are skills that will make these students stand out. Here is a link to find out more information on CDE’s.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Using Google Sites for an E-portfolio

Today we started using Google sites in Agriculture Communications to set up e-portfolios. We will use them also with twitter and Google docs to have a blog and micro blogs to teach new journalism skills.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New iPhone

Well I finally picked up my new iPhone. I wonder what new tools I will be able to use in teaching. I am looking forward to all the fun I will have with my new toy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

First blog entry

The Agricultural Communications class will be using E-portfolios along with their required ROP portfolios. They will be utilizing Google to accomplish this task. I hope they understand the responsibility of posting information online. Personal and professional information will be used by future employers to evaluate them.