Posts Tagged google

A much need Google Sites update!

The Totally New Google Sites

We use Google Sites extensively for the Kansai High School Model United Nations (@KHSMUN). For as old as the technology is, it has been a juggernaut in our approach to collaboration between schools on working draft resolutions.

I am quite excited to hear the the service will finally be updated. Expect a review once the update rolls out.

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An oldie but a goodie: iWebKit

A web app framework allows anyone with little to no programing knowledge to create a website that is designed specifically for smartphone and tablet devices. There are a few out on the internet to choose from, depending a lot on your own taste and what you want to achieve with the web app.

In 2016, the Kansai High School Model United Nations is looking to implement a web app that can be used by participants to receive announcements and other information pertaining to the day-to-day activities.

To prepare this web app, I chose an oldie but a goldie. iWebKit was introduced to me by a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator while we were working together in an iOS integrated school a few years ago. iWebKit has not been updated in the last 5 years or so, but its simple UI and ease of use makes it a choice for me. There is also the nostalgia of the original iOS interface.

For this web app, we will be integrating Twitter for live announcements, Google Drive to access needed documents, Google Calendar to display the days’ events, and Google Sites to allow group editing of MUN draft resolutions.

I am a big Apple fanatic, but being able for a project like this to work on other mobile devices is crucial. iWebkit has been doing just fine with that.

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Kids are not as tech savvy as we might seem… Or just a different kind of tech?

Much like riding a bicycle, when learning, you have to start somewhere. This past week I have been preparing students for a winter homework assignment that is to be done at home over the winter vacation, using both Edmodo and Google Drive. I was expecting students to be excited and even somewhat relieved that they could use a computer or their mobile device to do homework, rather than spend hours writing it out on paper. The reality, however, was that most students have very little experience using computers, some of whom did not have any Internet accessible device at home. Watching these high school students use computers as we were signing them up for the services was astounding. Despite the lack of typing skills, students just did not want to touch the things. Checking email, typing in a URL, or even understanding the difference between right and left clicking a mouse were all foreign skills to many of them. They we frustrated, lost, and even a little scared with using the computers. I saw similar expressions when using the iPads and iPods for the first time, but after a few class sessions, students seem to be comfortable with them; but at the same time, these are still fairly new devices, and in Japan are still seen as some what of a luxury to have them, but a personal computer? Whether it be a Mac or a Windows machine, the computer has been around long enough to become a standard commodity… Or has it? Japan, despite being seen as a techno hub, still is very traditional in how business is handled, especially in education. Students are so used to paper, and expect teachers to guide them through all their work. Cell phones and other mobile devices are seen as distractions, and are even banned in many schools (mine included).

One of the ICT instructors at my school informed me that most students just don’t use email, because they have apps like Line, which is Japan’s answer to Skype. I use this app as well. Thinking about its workings, users don’t need to know how to type on a qwerty keyboard, how to send and receive email, how to enter URLs, or how to move from one tab to another. In fact, most mobile apps don’t require anyone to know how to use a computer. So then it’s not that the students don’t have access to Internet accessible devices, but rather that the devices they have don’t allow them to see the Internet the way I saw it growing up in the .com bubble. The GUI has changed, how the Internet is accessed has developed past the entering of a URL, and the traditional qwerty keyboard is going the way of the typewriter.

We have entered into a post-PC era.

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Google Public Data Explorer

I have the duty of preparing students for a debate contest in March. One of the steps for this preparation is teaching students how to research. I came across Google Public Data Explorer I found it to be the perfect introduction to researching. The graphs displayed are interactive, and the connection to the World Bank’s facts and figures makes it extremely easy to find and compare figures and statistics of the world and individual countries.

As I am dealing with 10th Grade Japanese students, I treated this activity as an introduction.  Students worked in pairs and were given two tasks to fill:

  1. Choose any two countries and compare their population from any year.
  2. Compare Japan’s internet users from any two years.

Students were given five minutes for each task.  After time had elapsed, students had to present their findings, starting with the following phrase, “According to the World Bank…”

Such an activity I believe can give a brief introduction to research, give students a student-centered approach to learning how to read graphs, and how to state both the information researched and how to reference it in speech.

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